IU alums at forefront of same-sex marriage fight

By Matt Bloom | Inside IU

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

FISHERS, Ind. -- IU alums Greg Hasty and CJ Vallero were among the first of hundreds of same-sex couples to be married when a federal judge struck down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage in late June. Since then, their story has been at the forefront of a movement for equal marriage rights for gay couples across the state.

Hasty and Vallero
Greg Hasty, left, and CJ Vallero, who met at IU Bloomington, are at the forefront of a movement for equal marriage rights for gay couples across the Hoosier state. | Photo courtesy of Greg Hasty and CJ Vallero

The two met at IU's Bloomington campus in 2006, after a friend introduced them. Vallero now works at Roche Medical Supplies and Hasty as a simulation education coordinator.

“We’re just like any of the other couples out there,” Hasty said. “We just happened to sue the state.”

After Vallero graduated from the Kelley School of Business, they moved to Indianapolis. Hasty finished school, and the couple moved to Fishers to begin their life together. They adopted two dogs, Lilly and Travis, and got engaged.

Hasty said he thought his home state would take years, if not decades, to strike down legislation that defines marriage as a union between a man and woman. Then, American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana legal director Ken Falk asked the couple to be plaintiffs in his organization’s case against the state.

Since filing suit in March, the couple has stepped into the limelight of same-sex couples’ efforts to bring marriage equality to Indiana. The two were quoted in Indianapolis Star articles as the case progressed through state, then federal courts. They appeared at press conferences for the ACLU and have been featured on interviews with local broadcast news stations, leading to recognition by neighbors and complete strangers alike.

Hoosiers Unite For Marriage, a grassroots organization put together by a coalition of pro-same-sex marriage rights, enlisted Hasty to draft a letter to families across the state urging them to join the statewide discussion.

“I remember a couple years ago, I was sitting on my couch at home saying ‘It’ll never happen, not in a million years,’” Hasty said. “But now we’re moving quickly toward equality.”

Hasty and Vallero
Vallero and Hasty will travel to Chicago later this month to take part in a court hearing regarding the legality of same-sex marriage in Indiana. | Photo by Matt Bloom

Legal battle

Between June 25 and June 27, hundreds of same-sex couples in Indiana received their marriage licenses. For the first time in the state's history, a U.S. district judge ruled the law banning same-sex marriages, as well as the denial of marriages performed in other states, was unconstitutional.

Couples exchanged vows on the steps of courthouses and in the offices of county clerks. News stations broadcasted same-sex couples saying their “I do’s” for the entire country to see, while a firestorm of social media sharing and commenting from both sides of the debate ensued.

Then, an emergency order from the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago halted same-sex weddings in Indiana and left the newlyweds in legal limbo. The stay requires the case be decided by a higher court.

Last month, Hasty, Vallero and 34 other individuals filed appellate briefs. They'll travel to Chicago later this month to argue their case.

The send-off

On a weekend afternoon about a month after their wedding, Hasty and Vallero sat in their home, remembering when they would talk about marriage with their families, friends and even complete strangers.

For the couple that still makes trips to Bloomington for Pizza X breadsticks and walks around campus, IU will always be a special place, a place where they felt "free from judgment or questions.”

“I don’t think we give Hoosiers enough credit,” Hasty said.

On the morning of Aug. 25, the couple will attend a send-off ceremony with Hoosiers Unite for Marriage. From there they'll travel to Chicago, along with members of the ACLU and other plaintiffs, to present their arguments against the state.

The court’s decision will determine the legal status of hundreds of same-sex couples across Indiana.

“I used to have long conversations with family and friends about how this is never going to happen, at least not in my lifetime,” Hasty said. “But, man, were we wrong.”