Indiana mulls options after appeals court throws out marriage officiating rules

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The Indiana attorney general is looking into appeal options after a federal appeals court invalidated Indiana's statute regulating who may officiate at marriage ceremonies.

The Center for Inquiry brought the lawsuit against the Marion County clerk and prosecutor, arguing that secular humanists should have a way of solemnizing marriages without involving clergy. In November 2012, Judge Sarah Evans Barker upheld Indiana's statute as constitutional, but the plaintiffs appealed. On Monday, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago reversed Judge Barker's decision.

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.

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."

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 B misdemeanor.