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Indiana Survivor Challenges State Law

As I watched news reports of the falling stage when a violent storm hit the Indiana State Fairgrounds, the gut-wrenching realization that people were under the collapsing steel was followed by the knowledge that lawsuits would inevitably follow.

But no one could have foreseen that the tragedy at the state fair would become a battleground for same-sex rights in Indiana.

Tammy Vandam, a 42-year-old mom and former DJ, was one of six people killed in the stage collapse just as Grammy winning duo Sugarland was suppose to take the stage. Beth Urschel, 49, was among the dozens injured when the elaborate temporary structure crashed to the ground. Urschel and Vandam were life partners.

On Friday (Aug. 19) a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Vandam’s survivors, which includes Urschel and the victim’s 17-year-old daughter. Attorney Kenneth Allen says he will use the lawsuits to challenge Indiana state law regarding the rights of same-sex partners, according to Associated Press.

Leaving the state out of Urschel’s lawsuit and suing the companies involved was part of the firm’s “strategy,” Allen said.

Was the state at fault? It was their fair. The promoters? They’re the ones who put on the concert. Sugarland? It was their concert that the victims came to see.

What’s different about Urschel’s lawsuit is that it sets the stage for a legal and moral fight that Allen’s firm is taking on at a time when the tide is turning away from the “fit our mold” mentality. The American people’s discomfort with denying a segment of society the same rights as everyone else is becoming noticeable.

Of course, there are always people willing to degrade, deprive and discount a segment of society that differs from their own, but hopefully, those people will continue to move to the fringes, and leave the decision-making to everyone else.

I see people squirming over the previous conviction that it’s OK to deny or void out a couple’s life commitment, based on your beliefs. Should it be legal, under a US Constitution that claims equal rights for all its citizens, to deny the survivor of such a tragedy as the one that happened in Indiana the same rights that would be afforded to everyone else?

A few years ago it was a toss-up how that vote would go. Today, the mood of the country seems to be that this type of discrimination is, well, un-American. We’ll see if the country upholds the conviction to “let freedom ring.” 


Blogger Bio: For more than a decade Laurie Schenden has covered the entertainment industry for Curve, the Los Angeles Times and Germany's Spotlight magazine. Her cover stories for Curve magazine have included Sharon Stone, Melissa Etheridge, and the cast of The L Word. She’s also an award winning documentary filmmaker and one of the co-creators of the Laughing Matters film series, seen on Logo.