Gays Applying for Marriage Licenses in Indiana Won’t Be Charged Criminally; Also Won’t Be Married

Concern over criminal penalties for gay couples applying for a marriage license in Indiana is unwarranted and overblown, says native Hoosier Jerame Davis:

IndianaThe consternation for this law is coming about because of a change in how Indiana processes marriage applications. As part of an overall effort to modernize and digitize all state public records, Indiana has been switching – county by county – to a digital marriage license application form.

On the digital form, there are specific gender designators for male and female that cannot be changed. Previously, on the paper form, one could mark out male or female and write in the appropriate gender to make the form correct. On a digital version, this isn't possible.

So, some enterprising reporter put two-and-two together and wrote up a story about how there was a new law (no, it's an updated law that only changed the penalties) that would criminalize the act of any same-sex couple who filled out the electronic form because they would, by default, have to lie about the gender of one of the applicants.

Here's where it gets confusing for most folks, including the reporter who wrote the original piece: the law specifically criminalizes "knowingly providing false information" – in other words, when there is an intent to defraud the state, you have committed a crime. As several Indiana lawyers, including my friend and fellow blogger, Doug Masson, have pointed out, the simple act of writing (male – not female) or (female – not male) after your name should suffice to make your intent clear.

Of course, same-sex marriage is not legal in Indiana anyway.


  1. Craigers says

    I do not agree. here is a quote from our tv news report on the matter. “Applicants for marriage do sign their paperwork under penalty of perjury,” Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey said. “So if there is something on there that they know is false, then they would be eligible to be charged with making a false statement or committing perjury, which is a Class D felony.”
    And what about the fine against anyone who performs a ceremony for a same sex couple? Please don’t belittle this situation by basically saying we gays in Indiana made it all up.

  2. Eric says

    Your title really needs to be changed. “Won’t Be Charged Criminally” – how the hell do you know? It is not at all a certainty that people won’t be charged. Interpretation of this will not be up to “native Hoosier Jerame Davis”, but up to government officials. And, as we have been reminded again and again recently, such interpretation seldom uses common sense, and can be used as punishment.

  3. AG says

    Yes, gays in Indiana, you made it all up. What happened is the cost of civil disobedience (by applying for a marriage license by a same-sex couple) went up. But there must be better ways to fight for gay marriage in Indiana than applying for a marriage license by a same-sex couple anyway. There’s nothing new about this, it was done for 3 or 4 decades by now, hardly anyone is impressed by it anymore.

  4. says

    We need deeper reporting on the law — on the books since 1997, although changed in 2013. Andy, et al, you should link to a Bilerco project story on this law. I’ve included it in my URL below.

  5. MateoM says

    AG wouldn’t know what it’s like to stand up for his rights. He’s perfectly content with his quisling, second-class status. And by AG, I mean Rick/Jason, the person behind the screen name AG.

  6. Michael Bedwell says

    BRAVO to Towleroad for the correction. As a native Hoosier, I know that homophobic legislators [and hoi polloi] remain a huge problem in my home state, but something didn’t smell right from the beginning about this story. The rapid, rampant repetition of the original misstaken story illustrates again what I’ve noticed has become a self-disabling tendency in our Community, i.e.—always expect and believe “the worst.” I see it every time someone repeats the myth that tens of thousands of gays were intentionally murdered by the Nazis—often triggered by the willfully ignorant creators of the “Wipe Out Homophobia” Website/Facebook page recycling yet again their ludicrous, irresponsible article describing the so-called “Gay Holocaust” using numbers they [or someone else] pulled out of their ass. Even when one documents that by, e.g., quoting directly various scholars including GAY historians, many don’t want to hear that, as horrible as it was for some gays—which absolutely should be taught and never forgotten—the policies and practices directed at them were nothing like the premeditated wholesale execution of Jews. And if “knowledge is power,” what is ignorance?