INDIANAPOLIS — The second federal lawsuit this month challenging Indiana's same-sex marriage ban has been filed, and a third is planned Friday, joining a mounting number of similar complaints cropping up in courts nationwide.
Gay-rights legal organization Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on behalf of three couples who wish to marry in Indiana.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana plans Friday to take the challenge one step further. The group said it expects to file a third lawsuit in federal court on behalf of 15 plaintiffs, including two children of same-sex couples, challenging the same-sex marriage ban and the state's refusal to recognize gay unions legally performed in other states.
"The government is a powerful teacher of discrimination," said Sean Lemieux, an attorney working on the ACLU case. "There is no justification for Indiana to treat these families as second-class citizens. The families in this case want the responsibility, security and dignity that only marriage provides, and their children deserve the same protections that other Indiana families enjoy."
Both lawsuits follow a similar legal challenge filed in the same U.S. District Court last Friday by four other Indiana same-sex couples.
The Indiana legal challenges are part of a national wave of lawsuits targeting state bans on same-sex marriages. This week, similar challenges were filed in Florida and Arizona. Unlike Indiana, which bans same-sex marriage by state statute, both of those states have constitutional bans against the practice.
Rae Baskin, 60, and Esther Fuller, 78, Whitestown, are among the three same-sex couples named as plaintiffs in the Lambda Legal suit.
"We've been together for 24 years," Baskin told The Indianapolis Star on Thursday. "We just want what everybody else wants."
While other couples, including two named in the federal lawsuit brought last Friday, already have married in states that recognize same-sex marriage, Baskin said she and partner Fuller have held off in the hopes of getting married in the state that they call home.
"I feel that it's time for us, at least for me, to stand up and say, 'This is what is fair for the state of Indiana,'" Baskin said. "It is just a wonderful state to live in and to grow up in, and it deserves to be known for accepting the responsibilities for civil liberties, as well."
Baskin said the ability to marry takes on a special significance for her and Fuller as they start making plans for end-of-life care. Fuller underwent breast cancer surgery in 2008 and broke her hip in 2009. While Baskin has legal control over Fuller's care, she said the extra precautions the couple has needed to take are an unnecessary burden.
"When she broke her hip and I got a call saying she's in an ambulance on her way to the hospital," Baskin said, "the last thing I want to think about was that I've got all of the documents to make sure she is taken care of the way she needs to be. ...
"If we were legally recognized as wife and wife, it would just be automatic."
Specifics from the planned lawsuit led by ACLU were not available Thursday night. But the Lambda Legal lawsuit, filed Monday but announced Thursday, named several defendants, including Boone County Clerk Penny Bogan, Porter County Clerk Karen M. Martin, Lake County Clerk Michael A. Brown and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
In a statement released Thursday, Zoeller reiterated his intention to defend Indiana's marriage definition statute from all legal challenges.
"When plaintiffs who disagree with an Indiana statute file a challenge in court, I have a duty as Indiana's attorney general to defend our state and the statute the legislature passed to the best of my skill and ability — and will do so here, both now and on any appeal," Zoeller's statement said.
The Indiana lawsuits come on the heels of the Indiana General Assembly's decision to delay a proposal that would have enshrined a same-sex marriage ban in the state constitution.