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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Ind. Decisions - "Nonreligious groups now can perform marriages in Indiana"

Updating this ILB entry from July 14th, which linked to the 7th Circuit opinion of that date, the title to this post is taken from the headline today to this story by Jill Disis of the Indianapolis Star. But the headline is much too broad. The body of the story correctly states:

A secular humanist organization now has the legal right to solemnize marriages in Indiana after the state declined to appeal a federal court decision handed down last month in favor of the group.

The Center for Inquiry last month won a federal appeals court decision that overturned a lower-court decision barring its celebrants the ability to conduct marriages in the state as ordained ministers are able to do. Thursday morning, the organization announced that Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller would not appeal the most recent decision.

The settlement, according to the Center for Inquiry, makes Indiana the first state to allow nonreligious celebrants to perform marriages on equal grounds with ordained ministers. * * *

"We're delighted to have the equal status of the nonreligious recognized and finally made official in Indiana," said Reba Boyd Wooden, director of the CFI Secular Celebrant program and plaintiff in the case, in a news release Thursday. "Our Secular Celebrants stand ready to accommodate any couple— religious or nonreligious — who desire a secular ceremony, whether it be a private solemnization or a large wedding in front of family and friends."

As the result of the 7th Circuit opinion, District Judge Barker issued a final judgment yesterday. It reads in part:
IT IS DECLARED that Indiana Code § 31-11-16-1 is unconstitutional to the extent that it fails to extend the right to solemnize marriages to the Center for Inquiry and its certified secular celebrants including, but not limited to, Reba Boyd Wooden and that Reba Boyd Wooden and the certified secular celebrants may solemnize marriages with full legal effect, consistent with the other persons and entities mentioned in Indiana Code § 31-11-6-1, and without risk of any criminal penalties. [ILB emphasis]
In other words, under the ruling, certified secular celebrants of the Center for Inquiry may solemnize marriages in Indiana. Period.

And how many certified secular celebrants are there? Per p. 3 of Judge Easterbrook's opinion:

Reba Boyd Wooden is the Center’s leader in Indiana and is among 23 persons across the nation certified by the Center as “secular celebrants”.
And what of mention that perhaps notaries public will be able to perform marriages in Indiana? Judge Easterbrook only wrote, as Judge Barker yesterday repeated:
If Indiana amends its statute to allow notaries to solemnize marriages, the district court should be receptive to a motion to modify the injunction under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(5) to minimize the extent to which a federal decree supersedes the state’s own solution to the problems we have identified.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 7, 2014 01:40 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions