Friday, May 11, 2012

Establishment Clause Challenge to Solemnization of Marriage Law in Indiana

Indiana, like most states, allows state officials, judges, and certain religious officials to "officiate" at marriage ceremonies, performing the legal requirement often called solemnization.  In popular understandings, this is the person who asks the question of the persons to be married which they must each answer something akin to "I do." 

Elen_ludvik7But who gets to officiate?  Generally, the persons are listed by statute.  Indiana Code 31-11-6 lists the persons authorized to solemnize marriages, as:
    
        (1) A member of the clergy of a religious organization (even if the cleric does not perform religious functions for an individual congregation), such as a minister of the gospel, a priest, a bishop, an archbishop, or a rabbi.
        (2) A judge.
        (3) A mayor, within the mayor's county.
        (4) A clerk or a clerk-treasurer of a city or town, within a county in which the city or town is located.
        (5) A clerk of the circuit court.
        (6) The Friends Church, in accordance with the rules of the Friends Church.
        (7) The German Baptists, in accordance with the rules of their society.
        (8) The Bahai faith, in accordance with the rules of the Bahai faith.
        (9) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in accordance with the rules of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
        (10) An imam of a masjid (mosque), in accordance with the rules of the religion of Islam.

The Center for Inquiry, a secular humanist group, has filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of the section, based on its argument that it would like to perform secular weddings.  The complaint avers that secular ceremonies by state officials may not be desirable for some secular humanists: it would have "political overtones" and the official may not know the couple personally or share their values.  Such is alleged to be the case with the individual plaintiffs who have joined the Center for Inquiry.

The gravamen of the argument is that the Indiana statute embodies a preference for religion over irreligion and therefore violates the Establishment Clause. The ACLU is representing the plaintiffs in Center for Inquiry v. Clerk, Marion County, and its press release is here.

RR
[image: 14th C wedding via]

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Comments

Are you talking about people for instance who are ordained by the Universal Life Church in Indiana only?

Posted by: Carlin Jacoby | May 11, 2012 3:12:18 PM

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