A federal court has ruled against the Center for Inquiry in an Indiana case challenging that state’s restrictions on who can perform a wedding, a law that rules out humanist secular celebrants. Judge Sara Evans Barker, a Reagan appointee, upheld the law after applying the rational basis test. I don’t have a link to the ruling, as I’m reading it on Lexis/Nexis.
The Indiana state law, similar to many other states, only allows the following people to perform a legally binding wedding ceremony:
(1) A member of the clergy of a religious organization (even if the cleric does not perform religious functions for an individual congregation), such as a minister of the gospel, a priest, a bishop, an archbishop, or a rabbi.
(2) A judge.
(3) A mayor, within the mayor’s county.
(4) A clerk or a clerk-treasurer of a city or town, within a county in which the city or town is located.
(5) A clerk of the circuit court.
(6) The Friends Church, in accordance with the rules of the Friends Church.
(7) The German Baptists, in accordance with the rules of their society.
(8) The Bahai faith, in accordance with the rules of the Bahai faith.
(9) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in accordance with the rules of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
(10) An imam of a masjid (mosque), in accordance with the rules of the religion of Islam.
And the ruling explains what solemnizing a marriage consists of:
The individual who “solemnizes” the marriage has three related responsibilities: (1) completing the original and duplicate marriage certificates; (2) presenting the original certificate to the couple; and (3) “[n]ot later than thirty (30) days after the date of the marriage,” filing the duplicate certificate and the actual marriage license with the clerk of the circuit court who issued the couple’s license.
CFI Indiana filed the suit. The judge’s ruling is really quite odd and, frankly, rather hostile. She sneers that the constitution does not require the state of Indiana to “perform heroics to fashion Plaintiffs’ ideal remedy,” as if that was anything at all like what is being pleaded for in this case. It hardly requires the state to “perform heroics” merely to certify secular celebrants to solemnize marriages, any more than the state was “performing heroics” by adding German Baptist ministers to the list of those who could do so.
In fact, the ruling seems to be a long series of straw man arguments. Like this one:
Plaintiffs would apparently like the Court to declare that the State of Indiana has no business accommodating longstanding religious practices through the Solemnization Statute. This we cannot do and shall not do.
No, that isn’t the argument being made. CFI is not arguing that the state can’t certify religious officials to solemnize marriages, they’re arguing that the state can’t certify only religious officials (or elected ones) to do so.
We conclude that the Solemnization Statute is rationally related to the legitimate purpose of alleviating significant governmental interference with pre-existing religious beliefs about marriage. Additionally, the statute bears a rational relation to the equally reasonable purpose of allowing the government to assume responsibility for the marriage regulation function without ostracizing its religious constituents.
Again, this simply isn’t relevant. Adding secular celebrants to the list of those who can solemnize marriages does nothing to interfere with religious officials also doing so. Unless “without ostracizing its religious constituents” means that the state can refuse to do so merely because some religious people will be offended by the fact that secular celebrants can do the same thing they do. And that’s clearly wrong.
This whole ruling is garbage. I fully expect an appeal.
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