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Religious bent of Indiana’s marriage statute is not unconstitutional, federal court rules

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The Center For Inquiry, a non-profit that promotes a secular society based on science and reason, plans to appeal a federal court’s ruling that Indiana’s Solemnization Statute is constitutional.

CFI filed a complaint in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, seeking permanent injunctive relief to stop the clerk and the prosecutor from enforcing the Solemnization Statute, Indiana Code 31-11-6-1.

In a ruling issued Nov. 30, in Center For Inquiry, Inc., Reba Boyd Wooden, John Kiel, and Michelle Landrum v. Clerk, Marion Circuit Court, and Prosecutor, Marion County, Indiana, 1:12-CV-00623-SEB-DML, the court denied the plaintiffs’ request for permanent injunctive relief.

“Quite frankly, I think we were optimistic about how this particular case was going to turn out,” said Paul Fidalgo, spokesman for CFI. “We were surprised by the court’s ruling. We felt our case was extremely strong and explained very clearly to the court the institutional privilege of religion in the law as it stands.”

John Kiel and Michelle Landrum wanted to be married in Indianapolis by Reba Boyd Wooden, executive director of CFI-Indiana and a secular celebrant. Indiana requires marriages be solemnized and grants the authority to solemnize to religious and certain government officials. It does not recognize secular celebrants.

The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the Indiana Solemnization Statue, Indiana Code 31-11-6-1, and to secure a judicial declaration that the Solemnization Statute violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They contend the statute creates a preference for religion over non-religion.

The plaintiffs also sought a declaration that the Solemnization Statute does not comport with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  

The court rejected those arguments, finding the statute does not significantly impede a couple from getting married. Also, it agreed with the defendants’ assertion that since marriage has religious roots, it is both natural and logical that when the state government regulates entry into marriage, it accommodates those deep religious traditions.

Writing for the court, Judge Sarah Evans Barker stated, “In addition, Plaintiffs’ proffered evidence and statement at oral arguments give us no pause regarding the Solemnization Statute’s validity. We therefore will not disturb the presumption that this statute is a valid, nondiscriminatory exercise of the State’s power. Defendants have supplied adequate rational justifications for the statute: accommodating various faith traditions, maintaining official record-keeping systems, and ensuring that marriage ceremonies are meaningful, inter alia.”




 

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  • the law is ok
    No bruce the whole point of the first amendment was to prohibit the establishment of a state church by the federal government by Congress. Not to prohibit anything by the states apparently from its literal text. not that this have ever stopped the courts from using it however they pleased. here the courts just let the legislature do what they are there for-- to Legislate. Democracy and all that jive!
  • Religious privilege IS unconstitutional
    Providing specific privilege to religious institutions that cannot be obtained by secular organizations or non-theistic citizens is, by definition, unconstitutional. That is the whole point of the establishment clause and the first amendment. While the authority of the constitution in this country seems to be eroding due to opportunism by our politicians and apathy by the populace, it does not change the content of the constitution nor the legal precedent.

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    1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

    2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

    3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

    4. I am sorry to hear this.

    5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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