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Gay Couples Applying For Marriage Licenses In Indiana Could Face Criminal Charges

IndianaThanks to a 1997 state law, couples applying for marriage licenses in Indiana could potentially face Class D felony charges upon submitting their application to the clerk, even if said application is denied. 

The law in question declares it illegal to falsify any information on a marriage license application, including physical conditions such as gender. Since the state's electronic marriage license application explicitly designates places for one "male applicant" and one "female applicant", a same-sex couple could certainly trigger the law. 

The same law also declares it a Class B misdemeanor for any clergyman, judge, mayor, city clerk or town clerk-treasurer to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony or solemnize a same-sex marriage in any way, which carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1000. 

At present, it is not known if any Hoosiers, gay or straight, have faced charges for "falsifying" information on their marriage license application. However, NWI Politics did note that, should a clerk choose to ignore the law and issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, a conviction would not automatically remove them from their post, since the offense is only a misdemeanor. 

Lawmakers have already made an attempt to add a same-sex marriage ban to the state constitution, and to also include any sort of civil union as well. The proposal was delayed until the Jan.-Mar. 2014 legislative session, and subsequent approval would put the ban on the ballot for the following November. Fortunately, recent poll data indicated that a majority of Indiana voters oppose placing such a ban in the state constitution. 

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  1. "The same law also declares it a Class B misdemeanor for any clergyman to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony."

    Pretty sure this violates the first amendment.

    Posted by: Zach | Jul 9, 2013 1:53:35 PM

  2. No problem, these state bans are soon going to be in the dustbin of history.

    Posted by: Anthony | Jul 9, 2013 1:58:28 PM

  3. The ACLU, and the courts need to address this immediately. It has got to be unconstitutional. The republicans have really lost it this time.

    Posted by: bructer | Jul 9, 2013 1:59:50 PM

  4. Sounds bogus. A gay couple wouldn't be falsifying information if the form doesn't give them the opportunity to be truthful. They aren't pretending to be something they are not. Prosecuting an act of civil disobedience would certainly call attention to the problem, but isn't that the point of civil disobedience? It would also be an intrusion on religious liberty to tell a clergyman he couldn't perform a marriage ceremony (one that would have no legal standing because of state law).

    Posted by: Ernie | Jul 9, 2013 2:04:11 PM

  5. There are tons of "bogus" laws on the books in Indiana and hardly anyone has taken them on in the court systems here. Just because a law doesn't make any sense at all, doesn't mean that our legislature didn't somehow approve it anyway.

    Indiana is a backwater of religious, bigoted idiots who end up in political offices, local and national... Mike Pence is a prime example.

    Posted by: johnny | Jul 9, 2013 2:12:24 PM

  6. Indiana is a "backwater?" Yet it doesn't have a constitutional ban, and places like Oregon do.

    May have to redefine "backwater."

    Posted by: Dan E | Jul 9, 2013 2:21:15 PM

  7. @Johnny: I have no doubt Indiana and other states have the idiotic capacity to pass bogus laws, but they may not always get the results they want if they choose to enforce them. This one sounds bogus in terms of its constitutionality. And, politically, it would only affirm why the current marriage law is discriminatory.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jul 9, 2013 2:32:20 PM

  8. Indiana only does not have a ban because dedicated Indiana gays and supporters have fought it tooth and nail. It's been coming up in the legislature for 10 years at least, but the way you have to go about amending the Indiana constitution makes it easy to interfere.

    Basically, the amendment has to pass legislature in 2 CONSECUTIVE sessions, that's the kicker, when it's passed in one session we've been able to curbside it in the second so it doesn't get a vote and then everything starts over again.

    The problem with Indiana is there are a lot of residents that do not understand people being non-christian. The type that don't get school prayer to jesus might be offensive to some people because Jesus is just the lord and savior of everyone, and its a fact cuz the pastor said so.

    Posted by: MaddM@ | Jul 9, 2013 4:13:08 PM

  9. why aren't straight couples who have been married and divorced who are applying for marriage licenses for the 2nd or 3rd time on this list? I cannot understand how Christians who read the bible skip over this issue. Jesus spoke about this issue in all four gospels. this is pure hypocrisy.

    Posted by: willis keith | Jul 9, 2013 7:38:27 PM

  10. Guys...this isn't as bad as it seems. The ban on people solemnizing illegal marriages is just for legal purposes...that is, if the clergyman knowingly attempts to make official a marriage license that was completed fraudulently. So it would also apply to a pastor knowingly marrying a brother and sister who falsified their marriage license. The problem is really just with the online form in some counties, because you can't cross out the "male" or "female." You could probably get around that by writing "female - not male" or something in the blank part of the online form.

    This native Hoosier would be the first to admit that IN is kind of a backwater (the South's middle finger sticking up into the North), but let's not chalk this law up to homophobia when it was passed years before the same sex marriage ban. And frankly, a Constitutional ban on same sex marriage is unlikely to pass in Indiana these days...the polling numbers just aren't there for it.

    Posted by: Chris S. | Jul 9, 2013 8:01:06 PM

  11. Don't they farm homophobia there?

    Posted by: mark | Jul 9, 2013 8:42:04 PM

  12. Things like this might be more widespread than realized. For example, in Illinois it's a 'Class B Misdemeanor' to violate any part of the state code related to marriage. (750 ILCS 5/215). While probably not something a DA would pursue to the max, this type of offense can supposedly have a maximum penalty of 180 days incarceration in the county jail, with a maximum fine of $1500.

    Posted by: Rexford | Jul 9, 2013 9:39:00 PM

  13. Let's not lose sight of the obvious related issue: Why would anyone want to live in Indiana anyway?

    Posted by: Jason Chenard | Jul 9, 2013 10:00:48 PM

  14. As a native Indianan and a current resident, I will say that this state is by far not a perfect place to live--God knows we have our fair share of idiots, including many of our politicians. But we have lots of people, gay and straight, fighting for equal rights, and it is not as bad as others such as Jason believe it to be. I do get tired of others casting judgment as if this is a horrible place and their home is perfect. I point out, for example, that New York City has encountered more than its share of numerous anti-gay hate crimes lately while we've had none here in Indianapolis, at least in recent memory. Every community has its good and bad points and its sinners and saints. . . .

    Posted by: George | Jul 9, 2013 10:17:54 PM

  15. As a current resident in Ft. Wayne It is sad to see Indiana is still stuck in their ways

    Posted by: Tereesa | Jul 10, 2013 12:46:06 AM

  16. As a former resident of Indiana I couldn't wait to leave that bigot state!! As I have said before Indiana is filled with bigots, racists, and mentally unbalanced Mike Pence this state is the Mississippi of the Midwest!!!!

    Posted by: Mike | Jul 11, 2013 11:21:52 AM

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