A federal judge’s ruling declaring Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional doesn’t trump a clerk’s religious convictions in one county. Elsewhere, county clerks are being instructed that it’s up to them whether they issue licenses to gay couples.
“Personally for me, I feel like our country was founded on the biblical principle of marriage between one man and one woman and I’m going to stand on that principle until I’m ordered otherwise,” Daviess County Clerk Sherri Healy said Thursday morning.
Healy said at least a half-dozen people in same-sex relationships had called the courthouse in Washington inquiring about obtaining a license.
Young’s order Wednesday enjoined clerks in counties named in four lawsuits – Boone, Hamilton, Lake and Porter – from enforcing Indiana’s statute barring same-sex marriage.
It also forbid enforcement of laws that criminalize same-sex couples who fill out marriage license applications where spaces provide only for male and female applicants.
Before filing a motion to stay Young’s ruling late Wednesday, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office provided a letter of guidance to county clerks that said clerks in the named counties would be subject to contempt of court if they failed to issue licenses.
“Other county clerks are not under the direct jurisdiction of the court order but as an officer of the court, we me must encourage everyone to show respect for the judge and the orders that are issued,” the AG’s office advised.
Healy said the letter revealed a “gray area” that didn’t require issuance of licenses.
Daviess Circuit Judge Gregory Smith said he respected Healy’s decision, and that a letter from Zoeller “was really of no benefit.”
Clerks in counties such as Elkhart, Knox and Tippecanoe initially delayed issuing licenses after Young’s ruling Wednesday, but reported Thursday that they had begun to do so after receiving the AG’s letter.
Daviess County in southwestern Indiana isn’t alone in opting to continue to deny licenses for same-sex couples.
Cass County Clerk Beth Liming said despite several calls to the courthouse in Logansport, she opted not to issue licenses after consulting with county attorney John Hillis.
“I think we’re being advised by our county attorneys what to do, and that’s what we’re being told,” Liming said.
Hillis said Thursday, “If the clerk does not issue a marriage license, that's not a violation of Indiana law,” except in the four counties named in Young’s order.
Hillis said Zoeller’s request that other clerks around that state respect Young’s order was “pretty subjective,” and left the decision on whether to issue licenses up to each clerk.
“I don’t think it’s mandatory” that clerks grant licenses to same-sex couples under Young’s ruling, Hillis said. On the other hand, if Liming chose to issue licenses, Hillis said, “I think that’s fine. … She has a right to do that.
“Is that disrespectful of a judge? I don’t think so,” he said.
In issuing guidance to clerks, Zoeller’s office said it was doing so “to avoid the chaos that has ensued in other states when rulings such as today’s have been issued.”
Asked whether any additional direction may be coming from the AG’s office, spokesman Bryan Corbin said in an email, “We will notify county clerks (and the news media) when we are notified of any ruling from the U.S. District Court on the State’s motion for stay.”