Ind. stage collapse survivor talks about settlement

December 22, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Some believe it's a step towards legalizing civil unions in Indiana, but the state says the settlement is strictly a legal matter.

Four months after a fast-moving storm knocked down the stage at the Indiana State Fair, Alisha Brennon, 24, is dealing with her physical injuries -- a depressed skull and fractures to her face, ribs and back -- and the emotional hit of losing her partner, Christina Santiago, 29.

"Some days I feel like I am doing better and the next day it' s like it happened yesterday," she said.

Brennon received $307,861 in compensation; Indiana is awarding Santiago's estate for the accident, plus $114,000 for her own injuries. Indiana insists the larger award stems simply from Brennon's role as Santiago's executor.

"It is really frustrating that there are people out there, there are people in the world that think that just because you love someone of the same sex, it means you are less than someone who loves someone of the opposite sex. It is not fair," said Brennon.

Attorney Kenneth J. Allen says Indiana's money serves as a tacit acknowledgement of the validity of the civil union Brennon and Santiago consummated in June, when it became legal in Illinois.

"It is precedent-setting because had Christina died without a spouse or widow then her claim would be worthless in Indiana or at least capped beneath what they paid," said Allen.

But Indiana does not allow civil unions nor their recognition from other states. The legislature in fact last spring voted to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage and deny recognition of out-of-state same-sex unions.

"Those sorts of decisions, as to what to recognize, what not to recognize and so forth, are made by the Indiana legislature, which passes the laws," said Bryan Corbin, Indiana attorney general spokesman.

The attorney general maintains the settlement stops all litigation from the stage collapse, including a federal lawsuit by Brennon that questions Indiana's $5 million cap on total compensation.

Brennon has two other suits against private companies and legal analysts say it's inevitable that in those matters a judge or defendant will ask whether the couple's civil union was still legal when they crossed state lines.

Click here for the list of claimants who were offered and accepted settlements and their settlement amounts

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