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State will ignore same-sex unions

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A Greenwood woman who married her longtime partner two weeks ago was disappointed to hear the state will ignore their marriage.

The governor’s office is advising state agencies to ignore the same-sex marriages that occurred in June, which will affect 31 couples who were married in Johnson County. A memo from the governor’s chief counsel is telling state agencies to act as if the June 25 federal court ruling that overturned Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban never happened.

“Executive branch agencies are to execute their functions as though the U.S. District Court Order of June 25, 2014 had not been issued,” according to the memo from Mark G. Ahearn, general counsel to the governor.

Executive agencies include state departments such as the Family and Social Services Administration and Department of Workforce Development, said Kara Brooks, spokesperson for Gov. Mike Pence. Those agencies oversee state programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and unemployment benefits, for example.

Greenwood resident Tammy Gibson, who married her partner Jane Harper the day the ban was overturned, said it was a sad day to see the state deny their rights as a married couple.

Gibson said she wants to make sure they wouldn’t lose their house to a distant relative, save a little money on insurance and be able to get the same benefits as other married couples. Their accountant estimated they would actually pay more income taxes as a married couple, but the state will lose out on those extra dollars because they won’t be able to file jointly in Indiana, according to the governor’s announcement.

“It’s a step backward, and I don’t know what else you say,” Gibson said. “I don’t want anything special. I don’t want anything different. Just the same.”

The state is only recognizing one same-sex marriage, that of Amy Sandler and Nikole Quasney of Munster. The appeals court ordered recognition of their marriage on July 1 because Quasney is dying of ovarian cancer.

Friends and family members have been calling Gibson to talk about the state decision and offer support. The state can’t take away their marriage certificate brandishing the county’s seal, and Gibson said they’ll fight the state for the rest of their lives to get their rights as a married couple recognized.

“We will argue it to our death. Twenty-five years, I’m not going anywhere, and she’s not going anywhere,” Gibson said.

Same-sex couples rushed to courthouses around the state from June 25 to 27 to get licenses and be married. The state attorney general’s office appealed the ruling by federal court Judge Richard Young, which led to an appeals court halting clerks from issuing new marriage licenses to same-sex couples two days later.

Johnson County issued 37 licenses to same-sex couples during the two-day window, and 31 of those couples were married, deputy clerk Crystal Siegfred said. The licenses are valid for 60 days, so the remaining six could still be returned to the clerk’s office, she said.

The clerk’s office would not process any of the six licenses that haven’t been returned if the ceremony was conducted after the point when the appeals court issued its order, Johnson County Clerk Sue Anne Misiniec said. But she hasn’t received much information on how to proceed outside of information other clerks around the state have been sharing with each other, she said.

Locally, the state decision won’t affect the clerk’s office because the county has not been issuing or processing licenses since the appeals court ordered counties to stop, county attorney Kathleen Hash said. Hash wasn’t aware of any local situations where a same-sex couple had requested benefits or married tax status, she said.

The same-sex marriages have led to many legal and procedural questions that just haven’t been answered yet, Misiniec said. She said she thinks the move is to prevent creating more situations where the state might have to try to void a marriage or retract benefits if the federal court ruling is reversed and the state’s ban is upheld.

“It’s just making it more complicated, more knots to untie, no pun intended,” Misiniec said.

For example, Misiniec said the county would likely issue a refund if one of the six couples who hadn’t solemnized their marriage asked for it. But there’s been no clear direction on whether the couple would be entitled to their money, she said.

“The way it was relayed to us, we should probably process a refund to them because it was of no fault of theirs. If you obtained a license and failed to get married and it’s your fault, that’s a whole different story,” Misiniec said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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