First responders challenge Indiana same-sex marriage law

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Same sex marriage is taking center-stage again in Central Indiana. This time it is over benefits.

Saturday, first responders in Indianapolis announced they were suing the state and the governor for the right to name their partners as beneficiaries.

The lawsuit is an 18-page explanation of why the spouses of three current IMPD officers and one retired Indianapolis firefighter should get pension and death benefits.

24-Hour News 8 was there Saturday as the eight women announced they were suing Indiana Governor Mike Pence and officials with the “Indiana Public Retirement System,” which oversees the police officers’ and firefighters’ pension fund.

It all started when IFD Batallion Chief Ruth Morrison retired at the end of last year. She says she tried to name her spouse as her pension beneficiary four months ago and was denied by the state. She contacted attorneys and found three more first responders, who were legally married in other states, but are in the same boat in Indiana.

“We don’t receive the same benefits that any other firefighters or police officers do. Our spouses would be out in the cold. Also, if there’s a line of duty death — the ultimate sacrifice — their spouses wouldn’t be taken care of with the funds,” Ruth Morrison told 24-Hour News 8.

The funds she mentioned are $150,000 from the state that would be given to the family left behind after a first responder dies.

Since Indiana doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, their monthly pension money and death benefits would go back to the state, not to the spouse.

One of the two attorneys who filed the suit told 24-Hour News 8 they decided to file it now because similar laws against same-sex marriage are being stricken down in other states. They say it’s not right that the state of Indiana voids these couples’ marriages in the same way it voids marriages of the mentally incompetent, the drunk, or the drugged.

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