ACLU Suit Seeks Change To Ind. Marriage Law

Posted On May 10, 2012


(Indianapolis, Ind.) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana says it believes the state law on marriage is unconstitutional.


The ACLU is arguing the law, which says religions are the only groups whose rights can be recognized in a marriage ceremony, violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


“From a First Amendment perspective, it is proper and necessary for the state to allow religions to marry people according to their beliefs,” said ACLU Director Ken Falk. “However, the state law becomes unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause when you say that religions are the only groups with rights to have their beliefs recognized in marriage ceremonies.”


The suit was filed Wednesday in United States District Court Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division on behalf of the Center for Inquiry.


Two CFI-Indiana members from Kentucky wish to marry in Indiana, according to the ACLU. CFI’s Secular Celebrant program trains participants to conduct marriage ceremonies in accordance with the center’s essential beliefs, so that its members can have meaningful weddings featuring an assertion of their philosophical and ethical views.


CFI believes in fostering a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry and humanist values in which the dignity and fundamental rights of all individuals are respected. CFI does not oppose the free exercise of religion.


“This case is more than just an issue of fairness,” said ACLU of Indiana Interim Executive Director Frank Young. “It’s about respecting the rights of all who value marriage in Indiana. All who wish to have their marriage commitments solemnized should be able to do so in accordance with their beliefs, whether those beliefs are religious or not.”


Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he will defend the state statute.


“My office will defend the authority of the people’s elected representatives in the Legislature to determine who may solemnize legal marriages in this state. This statute was first enacted in 1997 and amended in 1999; and this constitutional challenge is a test of the authority of the state. My office will seek to defend this statute from the legal challenge as we have defended the Voter ID law, the Choice Scholarships law and other statutes that have been challenged by private plaintiffs,” Zoeller said.