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Case Regarding Who Can Solemnize Marriage Still Unresolved

If the order stands, Indiana will be the first state to allow secular groups to perform marriages.

marriage altar

Photo: Claire (Flickr)

Secular celebrants will be able to officiate marriages in Indiana.

The Indiana Attorney General’s office says it hasn’t decided whether to appeal a ruling allowing atheist leaders to solemnize marriages in the state.

That’s despite the fact that the group that brought the lawsuit, the atheist group Center for Inquiry, announced its victory today.

Indiana’s marriage statute regulates who can make a marriage official – any religious clergy and certain government officials like mayors and judges.

The Center for Inquiry filed a lawsuit in 2012 challenging the statute, saying the law discriminates against non-religious people.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled against CFI, but last month the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision.

Earlier today, CFI announced that the state declined to appeal the 7th Circuit’s ruling, clearing the way for secular celebrants to officiate marriages.

In a statement, the Attorney General’s office says the CFI’s announcement is premature and no agreement to end the case has been made.

CFI officials have since apologized for the confusion.

ACLU-Indiana legal director Ken Falk, who represents CFI, says the District Court’s order directs the state to allow CFI celebrants to solemnize marriages.  He says if the state opts not to appeal, that order becomes permanent.

“So the real question then after this is how the Indiana General Assembly deals with this case when it comes back into session next year. How they’re going to amend the statute to allow for secular celebrants as well as the other celebrants?” he says.

In its statement, the Indiana Attorney General’s office added that the District Court ‘s order was narrow, pointing out that it only allows CFI-certified celebrants to solemnize marriages.

CFI lists seven people in the state who’ve been certified by CFI to officiate marriages.

But CFI Executive Director Reba Boyd Wooden says even that narrow order means a lot to Hoosiers, and not just atheists.

“There’s people that, even though they’re religious, don’t want a religious ceremony because some of the churches and so on require counseling,” she says. “They require that you do it in the church. They have a bunch of strings attached to doing the religious weddings, and some of these people don’t want to go through that.”

The state has 90 days from the 7th Circuit’s ruling to appeal.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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