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Counties Still Refuse To Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

After a federal judge ruled Indiana's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, same-sex couples rushed to marry. But some counties are still refusing licenses.

Brett McNamara and Peterson

Photo: Jimmy Jenkins

Bart Peterson and Pete McNamara got married Wednesday in the Marion County clerks office.

Hundreds of same-sex couples have been married across Indiana since a judge ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, but some county clerks are still refusing to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.

The Attorney General’s office sent sent an email to all the state’s county clerks on Wednesday that reads:

“For those county clerks that were named (Hamilton, Allen, Boone, Porter, Lake) in the cases ruled upon today please be aware that you must comply with the court’s ruling or be subject to contempt of court. Other county clerks are not under the direct jurisdiction of the court order but as an officer of the court we must encourage everyone to show respect for the judge and the orders that are issued.”

But Daviess County Clerk Sherri Healy is still refusing licenses, saying there is a “gray area” between the federal court ruling and a direct order from the state of Indiana to lift the ban.

The office has also indicated they are waiting to see whether the judge issues a stay on his ruling.

“It probably makes sense to take a little time to see if that’s going to happen so people aren’t in limbo and aren’t having the law change on them,” says Daviess County attorney Grant Swartzentruber. “We’re just going a bit slowly, but at the end of the day we’re going to follow the laws.”

Hely has also cited religious beliefs for denying licenses.

Yesterday, county judges ordered the Bartholomew County clerk to start issuing licenses.

After multiple denials for licenses from the clerk, gay couples and supporters in Bartholomew County arranged a protest at the courthouse. One of those was resident Eric Malanoski.

“Yesterday, it was devastating,” Malanoski said. “We came here not expecting her to say no, which may have been naïve, but once we got over that, we became full of determination and just wanted to come down here in support of other couples that are trying to get married.”

As they sat inside the clerk’s office, two attorneys came in and ordered clerk Tami Hines to begin complying with the ruling. Eventually, a county judge arrived at the courthouse with an order mandating Hines and her office to begin issuing marriage licenses.

“My concern was the software that the state of Indiana has for us to use has a man and a woman  and so there were some concerns about the legality of altering that document,” Hines says.

After receiving the order Hines said her last concern was met and her office would begin issuing licenses.

Hundreds Of Same-Sex Couples Become Newlyweds

Meanwhile, other couples are celebrating their marriages.

Wednesday, when Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional, hundreds of couples took their lunch hour to rush to their county clerk’s office and get married, just like Jake Miller and his partner Craig Bowen did.

“Jake texted me and said, hey do you want to get married and I thought he was joking,” Craig says, looking at Jake. “And I hadn’t heard the news yet.”

Miller and Bowen were the first to get married in Marion County. There were no rings. There wasn’t a lavish ceremony.

“We had been talking about it for a very long time, about getting married and we said we were going to wait until it was legal in Indiana. And then when it was, we didn’t wait a second,” Miller says. “We’ve had a lot of friends who traveled and it was awesome, but we wanted to wait and here it is.”

The Marion County Clerk’s office stayed open late Wednesday to accommodate all the couples who waited in line to exchange their vows.

Bart Peterson and Pete McNamara got there before the line stretched out the door.

“So we talked about going to New York, thought about Illinois,” McNamara says about their marriage plans. “Disappointed that we couldn’t have family and friends there with us, but we talked a lot about doing that.  We kind of solved that today.”

A mutual friend introduced Peterson and McNamara more than two decades ago.  They hoped this day would come, but didn’t think it would happen this soon.

The lawsuit challenging Indiana’s gay marriage ban was just filed in March.

“So now we’re just married all of the sudden and we don’t know what to think. We have no idea what’s next,” Peterson says, laughing. ”An hour and a half ago you were at work and in meetings and now we’re here and we’re married.”

It was the same thing for Sarah Perfetti and Abby Henkel in Bloomington.  They were both at work when Sarah got an AP alert on her phone. They could get married.

“So we’re like ‘well, I guess if we go it might work out’ and we were the second ones to get here,” Perfetti says.

When Reverend Mary Ann Macklin heard the news, she wrapped up the meeting she was in at her church and rushed to the clerk’s office.  “Does anyone need a minister” she yelled as she ran into the office.

“I’m standing here for every couple who comes out here and wants to get married,” Macklin says.

Reverend Macklin married more than a dozen couples Wednesday on the courthouse steps.

“This just feels like part of a moment,” Henkel says. “In addition to being married two minutes from our house. It just feels like we’re part of something big and people are coming, everyone’s so excited, other gay couples are getting married today, and it just feels like, I don’t know I can’t describe it, it’s beautiful.”

In a couple of months Henkel and Perfetti will have a big wedding with more than 275 invited guests.

“Our plan was to have our legal wedding with just our immediate family in Chicago a couple days before that,” Henkel says. “But we’ve always wanted to be married in Indiana.  I mean this is our dream.”

Casey Kuhn, Jimmy Jenkins, Claire McInerny, Sylvia Bao and Gretchen Frazee contributed to this report.

Sara Wittmeyer

Sara Wittmeyer is the News Bureau Chief for WFIU and WTIU. Sara has more than a decade of experience as a news reporter and previously served with KBIA at the University of Missouri, WNKU at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, KY, and at WCPO News in Cincinnati.

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