Lebanon Reporter

State News

June 27, 2014

Gay marriage ruling sows confusion among clerks

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A handful of county clerks across Indiana weren't issuing marriage licenses to gay couples Friday, two days after a federal judge struck down the state's prohibition on same-sex unions.

Some were holding off, mostly because of the wording of the state's online application form, which is printed out and used by most clerks. The form posted at the state courts website uses the words "male" and "female" and "bride" and "groom," and some clerks were wary of altering that wording.

Janet Chadwell, clerk of Decatur County in southeastern Indiana, said her county attorney advised her that changing the form would be perjury.

"If I change it, then I'm altering the state form," Chadwell said.

In Marion County, the home of Indianapolis, officials at the clerk's office chose to cross out "bride" and "groom" on the printed form and substitute "spouse" and "spouse."

"I believe my job is to comply with the law and I also believe strongly that this is the right thing to do," Marion County Clerk Beth White said.

White's office has issued nearly 500 marriage licenses since Wednesday, when U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause because it treats couples differently based on their sexual orientation. Officials say most of those licenses have gone to gay and lesbian couples.

Spokeswoman for the Marion County Clerk's office Angie Nussmeyer said officials conferred with attorneys before altering the form. The "male" and "female" wording can't be changed because it doesn't appear in the printout, so officials simply told same-sex couples to ignore that heading, pick a side and fill in their names in that field.

Jennifer Drobac, a professor at Indiana University's McKinney School of Law, didn't see any legal problems with what Marion County is doing, because it's a minor change that doesn't affect the function of the form.

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