Court upholds Indiana’s marriage solemnization statute over objections of secular celebrant

In Center for Inquiry v. Marion Circuit Court2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 170243 (SD IN, Nov. 30, 2012), an Indiana federal district court rejected constitutional challenges to Indiana’s marriage solemnization statute (IN Code 31-11-6-1).  Under the statute, clergy can obtain a license to solemnize marriages, but those certified as “Secular Celebrants” by the non-religious Center for Inquiry cannot.  The court said in part:

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. For these and all of the reasons explicated above, we find that Plaintiffs’ First Amendment claim-whether grounded in Free Exercise Clause or Establishment Clause jurisprudence-does not succeed on the merits.

The court likewise rejected plaintiffs’ equal protection claim. In reaching its conclusions, the court pointed out:

there are several readily available avenues by which a Secular Celebrant may facilitate a marriage ceremony in Indiana: she may (1) preside at a wedding and then instruct the couple to go before one of the individuals listed in the Solemnization Statute to have the marriage solemnized; (2) become a member of the “clergy” by seeking immediate Internet ordination from the Universal Life Church; or (3) seek certification to solemnize marriages from the Humanist Society.