Center for Inquiry, Inc. v. Marion Circuit Court Clerk, No. 12-3751 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Indiana Code 31-11-6-1 specifies that a marriage may be solemnized (performed) by certain public officials or religious officials designated by religious groups and criminalizes purported marriage solemnization by others. The law omits equivalent officials of secular groups such as humanist societies. Florida, Maine, and South Carolina authorize humanists to solemnize marriages by becoming notaries public, but notaries cannot perform marriages in Indiana. Alaska, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia allow anyone to solemnize a marriage; Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Pennsylvania, New York, and Wisconsin allow the couple to solemnize their own marriage. Indiana recognizes neither option. The state accommodates some religions, such as the Quakers, that do not have clergy, but does not accommodate others, such as Buddhists. In a challenge under 42 U.S.C.1983, the district court upheld the law, reasoning that a humanist group could call itself a religion, which would be good enough for the state or could conduct a ceremony, followed by a trip to court for a legally effective solemnization. The Seventh Circuit reversed, with instructions to issue an injunction allowing certified secular humanist celebrants to solemnize marriages in Indiana. If Indiana amends its statute to allow notaries to solemnize marriages, the court may modify the injunction to minimize the extent to which a federal decree supersedes the state’s own solution to identified problems.