Indiana hits new low of homophobic bigotry

UPDATE: From the original source: “Alfarena Ballew from the Marion County Coroner’s office called to offer this statement, “Her friend and her aunt are working together with the life partner to take care of the remains. We have nothing in writing from the partner asking to claim the body. Our records show that the next of kin is her aunt. Our understanding now is that they’re all working together to release the body and take care of the services.” Ms. Ballew described the incident as a “misunderstanding” and says the office is on track to release the body shortly.

This weekend the main performance stage at the Indiana State Fair collapsed during unusually high winds, killing five and injuring 40. You probably already heard about this, since terrifying videos of the stage crushing concert goers quickly went viral. Due to the quick emergency response and bravery of people in the audience, many lives were saved. And thankfully none of my friends or family were harmed in the incident.

But for those who lost their loved ones, you’d hope they can eventually move on from this tragedy through mourning and memorial services. Unless you’re a lesbian, in which case Indiana says Fuck You:

When a stage collapsed during the Indiana State Fair over the weekend, Christina Santiago, manager of programming for the Lesbian Community Care Project at Chicago’s Howard Brown Health Center, was one of the casualties. Santiago’s partner, Alisha Brennon, was also injured in the tragedy.

The Marion County coroner’s office is refusing to release Santiago’s body to her partner; the office cited the Defense of Marriage Act as the reason why they’ve turned down Brennon’s request to pick up her loved one’s remains. DOMA allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Indiana has its own version of DOMA that outlaws same-sex marriage. Since Indiana law requires the next-of-kin to pick up Santiago’s body, but the state won’t recognize Brennon as the surviving spouse, Santiago’s body is still laying in the morgue awaiting a solution. Brennon, who is still hospitalized, is now working with Santiago’s aunt to pick up the body and make funeral arrangements.

Nausiating. It shames me to be associated with this state at all. Dan Savage already put it best:

This is what DOMA is designed to do. DOMA does nothing to strengthen traditional marriages. It doesn’t prevent straight couples from divorcing or make straight couples any more likely to take responsibility for their children. The federal DOMA and all the mini-DOMAs enacted by the states only serve to torment and persecute gay people at the most trying moments of their lives: when a partner is ill, when a child is sick, when a partner dies. And people who claim to be Christians will howl the loudest if DOMA is repealed.

When are we going to move out of these dark ages?


  1. zyxek says

    This is saddening. Right now a lot of the Ron Paul nuts are saying DOMA needs to be preserved in order to maintain “states’ rights.” States may be effective at providing services, but they are not little countries.

  2. says

    I am also sickened by this, and I would ask everyone to send your message to the White House and the President to repeal DOMA like they did DADT for the very reasons cited here. DOMA should be made illegal in the USA because it adds nothing and hurts everyone. This bias needs to end here and now, there is no excuse!

  3. says

    I have to completely agree with Dan. The sole purpose of DOMA is to make sure that gays and lesbians continue to know that they are lesser than heterosexuals. It is meant to ensure that they realize they are the other, and to tear their families apart to prove it.

  4. says

    Yesterday I was having a pretty okay morning. The most difficult of our study participants was being surprisingly pliable. Until the very last few minutes. The PT I work with was making conversation while taking his blood pressure and the tragedy at the State Fair came up. The participant announced, apropos of pretty much nothing, that he wasn’t too sad about that one girl who died, since she was gay. He went on to tell us all about how he won’t rent apartments in the building he owns to anyone gay. The whole brain-breaking, tooth-hurting nastiness of it was compounded by the fact that the very sweet PT is kind of charmingly and very openly flamboyant, right down to the lisp. He and I just exchanged a look and decided to let it go, since he’s almost impossible to work with already and the study has enough issues, but we didn’t talk about much else back in the closet where the researchers are kept. Sigh.

  5. says

    Unfortunately, repealing DOMA would require congressional support. A repeal couldn’t pass the House, or overcome a Senate filibuster currently. We need to keep fighting in local and state races to continue the spread of equality. North Carolina and Minnesota will probably both have same-sex marriage amendments up for a vote next year. We need to make sure they lose by pointing out the cruelty of such restrictions. EDIT: This is an accidental repost of my reply to Åndrew Bergström. Feel free to delete, because I can’t figure out how to do so myself.

  6. says

    Unfortunately, repealing DOMA would require congressional support. A repeal couldn’t pass the House, or overcome a Senate filibuster currently. We need to keep fighting in local and state races to continue the spread of equality. North Carolina and Minnesota will probably both have same-sex marriage amendments up for a vote next year. We need to make sure they lose by pointing out the cruelty of such restrictions.

  7. Bob Terwilliger says

    What the hell? There’s absolutely no reason to deny her the right to collect the body except to be an asshole. This is simply a case of one person forcing their beliefs onto another, and the fact that they have a legal framework with which to do it is sickening. Seriously, does anyone else think “Defence of Marriage Act” sounds like something from some kind of dystopian theocratic society? It’s the sort of thing you’d expect in a parody of America.

  8. zyxek says

    Thanks for putting it that way. We all need to get used to using the terminology previously reserved for heterosexual marriages. When I tweeted a link about this, I said “partner,” but I would have automatically used “widow” if she had been married to a man who died. My mistake.

  9. Naz says

    I was just directed to this site via a blog that I read from back home in Australia, I am currently living in America. I wish I could say Australia was better with all this, but unfortunately just recently there was a pro-marriage rally held there, Rebecca Hagelin, who I had not heard of until this rally, came out saying if gay marriage is allowed it will lead to polygamy, a rise in pedophiles and so on! Seriously? I feel so sorry for these 2 women, and for all those out there that have to live like this in 2011! Makes me sick.

  10. Robert B K Dewar says

    ” And people who claim to be Christians will howl the loudest if DOMA is repealed.When are we going to move out of these dark ages?” Historically Christian churches have been much more in the business of creating dark ages, than moving out of them. I have a lot of sympathy for Bertrand Russel’s position (

  11. Pliny the in Between says

    A little empathy was all that was needed.  If the coroner for one moment had imagined what it would feel like to have the body of one of their loved ones used as a political statement, would they have felt differently?

  12. Carlie says

    via Kate Harding, one of the groups that Santiago was on the board for (Amigas Latinas Chicago) is saying on facebook that the story is not true as reported.  It’s not set up as an open group, though, so you have to request to add it as a friend to see the wall posts (I haven’t; just reporting what is being tweeted)

  13. Imnotspecial says

    I wrote an e-mail to the coroner and got this reply:I have no idea where that is coming from. Christina’s wife was never deniedany opportunity.  The aunt and friends are all working together to take careof things while her spouse is recovering.  Please spread the word!Alfarena Ballew Quick reply from my BlackBerry.——————————————————————————–Jen you can relax now! It’s best to not expect the worst.

  14. GrahamMartin_Royle says

    That’s just sick, she’s in hospital herself, she’s lost her loved one and she’s not recognised as the next of kin! Sick!

  15. Imherefromtheinternet says

    The story has been updated at the OP.This is not a true story, according to the OP.

  16. Imherefromtheinternet says

    From the post at Blerico: UPDATE 2: The organization Santiago was a board member of, Amigas Latinas, has put out this statement:Amig@s. We’ve seen a few posts asking folks to call the media because of a claim that Alisha’s wishes aren’t being respected because the tragedy took place in Indiana. This is NOT TRUE! We appreciate the passion for equality and justice on behalf of these mujeres, but everyone has been working together to honor Christina Santiago. Please intervene if you see this news…

  17. Anna says

    Hm, this is very interesting. I posted a link to this post on Facebook and three friends picked it up pretty fast. That was before the update. In someways I believe the update; that there were no direct quotes in the original seemed a little odd, but since it would be very odd for a coroner to speak publicly about it’s decision on releasing a body and the wife is recovering from injury herself, I let it slide. In other ways is just sounds like excuses to me: “Oh, there’s no written record of us doing wrong and we were just following our records…” I’m kind of wondering if the wife tried to get access verbally, got rebuffed with DOMA cited (maybe by someone who didn’t even have the power to do so), and she started working with the aunt (and this mysterious friend- what’s that about?) to get the body, but somehow it leaked that she was originally rebuffed. Or maybe none of this happened. I have no idea, but the whole thing still seems fishy.

  18. says

    Remember that bestiality was legal is Indiana up until 2007. Kind of puts it all in perspective. Glad to hear you moved to Seattle, just up the road from Tacoma, where I am at. Welcome!

  19. 25pinkroses says

    I linked to this entry earlier today from a post Susie Bright made on Facebook.  While I absolutely find “DOMA” reprehensible, I haven’t yet seen any evidence that the coroner’s office specifically refused to release Ms. Santiago’s body to her wife.  Certainly it sounds like their policy is to do that, but if they hadn’t specifically said that to Ms. Brennon, then people shouldn’t report this story saying or even implying that they did.

  20. Svlad Cjelli says

    Yep. Even if the coroner is in fact a moustache-twirling villain, he still doesn’t have much choice. He can’t hand out corpses to non-authorised people.

  21. Oiram71317 says

    Coulnn’t gay couples sign a power of attourney giving each other these types of rights on the day they get married? I understand it is unfair and in a perfect world it should not be necesary but if it works, it might make these DOMA laws useless. (I mean as a temporary solution until the bigotry can be voted out…hopefully).

  22. says

    “When are we going to move out of these dark ages?”We’re not even going to get 1/2 way there until adults stop believing in fairy tales, AND stop thinking what they want means they get to decide for everyone. In other words, Never. And bigtos only care about stat’s rights until it becomes in conveinent.  Look at Psycho PRick Perry’s instant turn around on stat’es rights.  First, it was important to let the states decide if they want gays to marry or allow women control over their own bodies.  Until he realized that would mean some places wouldn’t chose psychotic bigotry.  Now, he’s saying if he is elected (and he will be) he’ll be pushing for federal bans on both.States Rights!  until they become inconvenient, then bigger government!

  23. says

    So, in other words, we should leave it up to them to decide if there’s really a probem here?  So, if we extrapolate your argument, we should ask a rapist if he really raped someone, and if he says no, then it wasn’t rape?  We should ask those white kids who stomped James Anderson todeath while screaming “white power” if they committed a hate crime, and then agree that it wasn’t cuz they say so?How about Wal-Mart’s clearly proven pay discrimination?  You must agree with SCOTUS that, because Wal-mart didn’t put that specific language in its policy, then pay discrimination doesn’t exist?If the wife says they refused to release the body to her, why should we automaticaaly doubt her, and allow people who use DOMA as a defense to pretend otherwise?

  24. says

    Everyone knows that “states rights” is just a euphemism for racism/sexism/what ever other ism that allows you to hate others that are different.I friggin’ hate “states rights”.

  25. warner says

    Both Power of Attorney and a proper Will should trump DOMA acts. In most states the body is the chattel of the estate and it is the executor, or their lawyer, that should be dealing with it. However a Power of Attorney is a very powerful document and it is not recommended that without good reason you give a non-limited one to even a spouse. Many states do not permit medical-Power of Attorney to be given to a non relative/spouse and many young people don’t have wills. I did not have a will until I had custody of a minor child and needed one for his protection (not from my ex-wife but from our mothers).I am not a lawyer and am limited in certain knowledge to the state in which I live and have drawn up such document.By the way, the update doesn’t say anything the OP didn’t, it just gives the impression of coroner thinks it is a silly law. Note that it still says the next of kin is the aunt, not the spouse.

  26. Anna says

    I think there are a lot of people who honestly believe in states’ rights who don’t mean for it to be an excuse to deny people their rights. I think like with all issues, those sensible folk get drowned in the tide of hateful, screaming jerks.

  27. Anna says

    “Many states do not permit medical-Power of Attorney to be given to a non relative/spouse”It this part is true, if Indiana doesn’t allow Power of Attorney to be given to non-relatives/spouses, they don’t recognize the marriage and so the Power of Attorney may very well do nothing.

  28. bible belt atheist says

    It is incidents like this that led  me to the conclusion that there is no god. After all this time I fail to understand why christians fail to see the illogic between their assertion that there is a loving god who makes its followers do the right thing,versus bigoted homophobic acts such as has been described in this post. To answer the question, I don’t know when we will get out of these dark ages, but we will eventually. It helps to remember that not so long ago, racial segregation was just as firmly entrenched as homophobia is now. While it is true that Americans’ belief in fairy tales is driving this shit, those same belief also drove racial segregation. America changes, slowly but surely.

  29. warner says

    It would depend on if the state allows a survival clause, some do. My medical POA specifically grants the holder the ability to make organ donations.But it would have to be explicitly in there and allowed.

  30. says

    yes, we can get POA, and leave instructions in our wills etc, however, all of this comes at a HUGE expense.  Any straight couple gets all of these benefits, and responsibilities, for the cost of a marriage license.

  31. says

    I would like to believe you but as of yet, I have not heard one “states rights” support that wasn’t a bigot. Remember the south used “states rights” in the civil war and civil rights movement. Now people are using the same verbiage with abortion rights and same sex marriage rights. Seems to me there is a pattern.

  32. Anna says

    Bigoted people will use any excuse to support their bigotry. Plenty of them think  they should get to vote on gay rights, abortion, etc., but democracy, representative or pure, isn’t just a smoke screen for bigotry. Same goes for states’ rights. Some people really do believe in them without bigotry, since it could work the other way- a state recognizes a marriage or allows an abortion and there shouldn’t be anything the federal government can do to stop them.I will say that the Civil War wasn’t strictly about racism/slavery- there are some heinous quotes from Lincoln about why he was waging the war, essentially saying he was doing it for economic reasons, not to free slaves. The states’ rights in the Civil War thing mostly comes from whether states’ have the right to secede, since if they didn’t their secession was treason (hence the war), though slavery was also an issue (but weirdly was much less contentious, given it was about owning people *shudder*). Sorry, I have some Civil War buffs in the household- this gets brought up fairly regularly. I don’t mean to sound all preachy, I just want to share information.

  33. Susannah Vane says

    No, we should leave it up to the family to tell us whether there’s been a problem, and the family is saying there hasn’t been.  Please read other comments on this thread.  Also please read this post at the blog that originally broke the story:

  34. Susannah Vane says

    Damn, something went wrong.  This should have been a response to Bruce McGlory’s comment above.

  35. Der Cat says

    That’s really fucked up.  I hope if If I’m able to get married and die before my wife no one pulls this shit on my widow….

  36. Monado says

    A power of attorney is for either physical care or control of property. Both kinds become void on the death of the subject. They can’t be used to claim next of kin status after death.

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