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Monday, March 31, 2014

Ind. Courts - "Same-sex divorce filings challenge Indiana's ban"

Rebecca S. Green has a long story today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette on a same-sex divorce filing this month in Allen Circuit Court. The story begins:

Michael Alan Wetli wants a divorce.

But under Indiana law, it will be very difficult for him to get one. While his same-sex marriage to his estranged spouse, Matthew Eugene Shaffer, is legal in Iowa, the Hoosier State does not recognize such unions.

So it is unclear whether Allen Circuit Judge Tom Felts or one of his magistrates will, or even could, grant Wetli's request, filed March 7.

While his attorney, Harry W. Foster III, is optimistic, some legal experts believe it is not likely to succeed and there are few if any other such cases in Indiana with which to compare.

According to court documents, Wetli and Shaffer were married in Iowa on Jan. 1, 2013. But in August, the couple separated. Wetli has been living in Indiana for about six months, and for at least the last three months, has been a resident of Allen County.

"(T)he petitioner is requesting that the Court dissolve the marriage," Foster wrote in court documents on behalf of his client. "(W)hile Indiana does not recognize same sex marriage, Indiana must give full faith and credit to the marriage which was duly solemnized in Iowa and hereby grant the parties' dissolution of marriage." * * *

The issue showed up earlier this month in federal court in Indianapolis with a trio of lawsuits filed against the state, challenging the ban on same-sex marriages and the refusal to recognize marriages solemnized in other states.

Among the three suits was one that included plaintiffs Linda Bruner and her wife, Lori Roberts. The two have been married since 2010, having had a lawful marriage in Iowa.

Together since 2003, the couple have been raising Roberts' two children. However, they recently separated in a split that included a protective order in Hancock County, according to court documents.

On Jan. 31, Bruner filed for divorce in Marion County, though the position of both the Marion Circuit and Superior courts is that the courts do not have jurisdiction to dissolve same-sex marriages.

Should her request for a divorce be denied, Bruner intends to appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals, according to court documents.

"The trial court's refusal to grant a divorce to (Bruner) denies her access to the courts and a meaningful opportunity to be heard in violation of her constitutional rights," wrote Bruner's attorneys in their complaint. "Further, (Bruner) is forced to remain in an unhealthy and unsafe marriage."

ILB: Five same-sex marriage lawsuits have been filed in the SD of Indiana since March 7th.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 31, 2014 09:31 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts