Civil Union Law Complicates Stage Collapse Suit

Indiana may not recognize same-sex partner's right to sue for damages

By Christian Farr
|  Monday, Sep 26, 2011  |  Updated 6:51 PM CDT
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A Chicago woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit following the death of her same-sex partner in an Indianapolis stage collapse last month, but different civil union laws in Indiana could prevent her from collecting.

A Chicago woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit following the death of her same-sex partner in an Indianapolis stage collapse last month, but different civil union laws in Indiana could prevent her from collecting.

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Health Center Mourns Loss of Santiago

Friends and coworkers of Christina Santiago mourn her death Sunday night during a vigil in Chicago following a stage collapse Saturday in Indiana.
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A Chicago woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit following the death of her same-sex partner in an Indianapolis stage collapse last month, but different civil union laws in Indiana could prevent her from collecting.

Alisha Brennon filed the lawsuit after her partner, Christina Santiago, was killed during an Indiana State Fair concert. Seven people were killed and dozens injured in the weather-related incident.

"I was knocked unconscious with her right in front of me on the ground, and I never saw her again," Brennon said at a Monday news conference.
Alisha Brennan and Christina Santiago
Brennon and Santiago entered into a civil union in June when it first became legal to do so in Illinois, but Indiana does not recognize same sex partnerships.

  Therefore, the courts in that state will need to decide whether Brennan is even eligible to receive a damage award in Santiago's death.

"This was not some casual acquaintanceship. This was a marriage, and they needed to be treated like all married couples need to be treated -- the same," Brennan's lawyer, Kenneth Allen, said.

Under the Illinois civil union law, same-sex couples and heterosexual couples have the same legal rights and benefits. But Northwestern University political science professor Andrew Koppelman said Monday that Brennon is going to have a hard time with the lawsuit because of the Indiana law.

"What she stood for isn't something you can put a number on. But what I want to come out of this is people who love each other regardless of who they are, are owed that right," Brennan said.

Indiana State Fair officials had no comment on the lawsuit, except that the investigation by two outside should be completed in next few months.

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