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Indiana’s Extreme Anti-Gay Marriage Law

indianAccording to multiple sources, which I will cite, the state legislature and governor signed a bill into law that makes it a felony to apply for a marriage license if you are a same-sex couple and a misdemeanor for clergy to marry same-sex couples. The felony has a fine of 18 months in prison and $10,000 fine as reported by Think Progress. As the saying goes, the “devil is in the details.” This is an update of a 1997 law according to USA Today. They state it as such:

“The provisions at issue are part of Indiana Code 31-11-11. Here is what they say. Section 1 says that “a person who knowingly furnishes false information to a clerk” when applying for a marriage license commits a Class D felony. (That carries a potential punishment of up to three years in prison or a $10,000 fine.) Since a marriage license application contains sections for the male applicant and the female applicant, a same-sex couple could be seen as providing false information. Another section making it a crime to provide false information about an applicant’s “physical condition,” which could include gender, also is a Class D felony.

gayweddingcake7“And Section 7 says a person who “knowingly solemnizes a marriage of individuals who are prohibited from marrying” commits a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum 180-day jail sentence or $1,000 fine. While Indiana bans same-sex marriage, some churches allow their clergy to perform same-sex unions.”

Indiana passed a same-sex marriage ban in 1986 and this update of the old law with new fines and penalties seems to be in response to the repeal of DOMA and Prop 8. With the ACLU already filing lawsuits against Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to end the same-sex marriage bans there as it is considered unconstitutional by the ACLU violating the 14th amendment, which states “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

This does not say, as stated, on the Occupy Democrats website, except gay people. If this law is challenged in the Supreme Court, I hope it will be overturned. Hopefully, some gay and lesbian couples in the state will sue, and take this to the state court. However, the state courts could agree with the legislature. This must be considered a possibility, but if the court judges truly believe in the equal rights that are to be given to everyone, then there is hope. It is my opinion and I’m speculating here, so take that into account, perhaps Indiana did this out of fear that their state law banning same-sex marriage will be challenged, and the conservative Republican lawmakers in the state did this as a preventative measure to scare same-sex couples and clergy who perform same-sex marriages in the state even though it is not legal.

Anti Gay Banner outside the Milwaukee PrideFestThis is where it gets complicated. The law is rather vague as quoted above from USA Today, and so it poses some questions, such as will clergy who perform commitment ceremonies (technically, it is not a legal or civil action) be fined too? How far does the law go? What if a same-sex couple just decides that are married or committed without a minister? I have not found the answers to these questions as of yet and couples could still be together, naturally, without need of a ceremony or someone to officiate over it. I imagine the answers to these questions will come over time as it is tested and challenged by others if they choose to do so.


About Joshua Spencer

I am a writer for the Gay Voice since April 2013. I have contributed book reviews for The UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns and wrote for Child of God Online from 2007-10 as the primary writer. I published my first article in the Christian Union Witness titled "Coat of Many Colors" in 1998. I am a gay Christian, which probably sounds strange to some of you, but it is possible to be both, and I come from a liberal theological tradition. I've worked as a librarian for 4 years and a substitute teacher for 8 years. I have a BA in History and Anthropology and two Master of Education degrees. I'm currently working on a Mastery of Theology: Ethics degree and may pursue a PhD at some point in a social sciences field. I'm also working on publishing 2 books.

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