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[ATG] Attorney General’s Statement on 7th Circuit ruling in Center for Inquiry case
Start Date: 7/14/2014Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 7/14/2014
Entry Description
INDIANAPOLIS – The State is evaluating its appeal options after a federal appeals court today invalidated Indiana’s statute regulating who may officiate at marriage ceremonies.

In the lawsuit Center for Inquiry Inc. v. Marion County Clerk and Marion County Prosecutor, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago issued its judgment, reversing a decision by U.S. District Court Sarah Evans Barker of November 30, 2012, that had upheld the solemnization statute as constitutional. Ruling in favor of the plaintiffs who had appealed Judge Barker’s ruling, the 7th Circuit remanded the case to the district court with instructions to allow secular humanist celebrants to solemnize marriages without involving clergy. The three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit also recommended a statutory change to Indiana law that would allow a notary public solemnize a marriage as certain other public officials currently can do.

As lawyer for state government, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office defends state statutes, and also represents county prosecutors in their official capacities in civil lawsuits. Attorney General Greg Zoeller today issued this statement:

"My office has a duty to defend state laws the Legislature passed from lawsuits that private plaintiffs file, and we contended the Legislature’s requirements for determining who can solemnize a marriage for the purpose of filing a marriage license at the county clerk’s office were reasonable and included alternatives for couples without involving clergy. We will review the 7th Circuit’s decision to determine the options to appeal on this narrow but important question of state legislative authority," Zoeller said.

The statute, Indiana Code 31-11-6-1, authorizes various persons including clergy, judges and other elected officials to solemnize marriage ceremonies, and makes violations a Class C infraction.

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