Indiana News

ACLU Sues Over Indiana Marriage Law

Says members of secular groups should have the right to conduct weddings just like religions

5/9/2012

The ACLU says you shouldn't have to be a preacher or a judge in order to conduct weddings.

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The group has filed a federal lawsuit against the state on behalf of two agnostics claiming the state's marriage laws are unconsitutional.  "There are entities out there like the Center for Inquiry made up of people who are not religious, but have deep beliefs, deep philosophies, and they would like their leaders who are trained to marry people to be able to do so," said Ken Falk, Legal Director for the ACLU of Indiana.

Falk says two members of the Center For Inquiry want to get married using a leader at the Center who has been trained to conduct weddings. However the CFI leader is unable to officiate a wedding because only ministers and judges are legally allowed to do so in Indiana. 

Falk says the state law violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment because religions are the only groups to have the right to have their beliefs recognized in weddings.  "A state cannot discriminate against non-religion in favor of religion any more than it can discriminate in favor or one one religion or the other."  He says it also violates the 14th Amendment by not allowing groups who have non-religious beliefs to spread those beliefs through marriage ceremonies.

Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Zoeller, says the Attorney General's office will defend the state in the lawsuit, saying it is mandated to defend such challenges to state law.  "There have been challenges to the voter ID law. There was a challenge to the school vouchers law. Whenever that happens, the attorney general is required, is obligated to be the defense attorney for the state, if you will," said Corbin.

Zoeller's office will not comment on the merits of the lawsuit prior to a court hearing.  "Whenever the legislature passes a law, it is assumed to be constitutional." Corbin said.  "The plaintiff here will have the burden of proof to show that court that it is not. So, we'll make our legal arguments in cout at the appropriate time."

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