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Lawsuit Filed in Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 27, 2011 8:40PM

Christina Santiago (Image from Santiago's Facebook page).
A pair of lawsuits filed by a survivor of last month's collapse of a stage at the Indiana State Fair will put to the test the recognition of same-sex unions in Illinois in states where civil unions and gay marriage aren't allowed.

Attorneys for Alisha Brennon filed the lawsuits in Marion County (IN) Superior Court yesterday to force Indiana to recognize the Illinois civil union of Brennon and Christina Santiago.

Santiago, a prominent local LGBT activist, was one of those killed in the Aug. 14 stage collapse. She and Brennon drove to the Indiana State Fair to catch a concert by Sugarland when the stage collapsed. Brennon suffered substantial injuries and is currently confined to a wheelchair.

Benefits from Indiana's $5 million Tort Claim Fund, which is capped at $700,000 per person, go to either spouses or immediate family. A separate State Fair Relief Fund comprised of charitable donations will pay out $35,000 to families of the victims. Since the civil union of Brennon and Santiago is in Illinois and Indiana doesn't recognize same-sex unions, this and another lawsuit filed by Brennon's attorney Kenneth Allen on behalf of another lesbian couple who married entered a civil union in Hawaii could set a legal precedent.

Allen compares the lawsuits to a civil rights battle.

"It’s got to change,” Allen said. “You must be treated equally by the law, but Indiana treats gay and lesbian couples in a discriminatory fashion that needs to be changed.”

Brennon also talked for the first time since the tragedy about her recovery and the lawsuit. Mostly she said she's finding it hard to adjust to not having Santiago in her life.