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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

    2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

    3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

    4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

    5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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