A case brought by the Center for Inquiry challenged Indiana’s marriage solemnization statute on the grounds that it does not permit secular celebrants to solemnize marriages. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana rejected that challenge.(pdf)
The solemnization statute is IC 31-11-6-1:
Sec. 1. Marriages may be solemnized by any of the following:
(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.
A secular celebrant is someone who has some background in performing weddings, memorials, and other “milestones of life” ceremonies but who is not affiliated with any religion.
I think the District Court was probably correct, particularly under existing precedent, that this statute does not violate the establishment or free exercise clauses. It is maybe slightly more burdensome for an atheist to get married than a religious adherent. But, the fact is, the secular celebrant can still preside at your ceremony. You just might have to do a little extra paperwork at the Clerk’s office to have your marriage recognized by the State whereas the Muslim can just have the imam solemnize the marriage.
That said, the Center for Inquiry should lobby the General Assembly to amend the solemnization statute to allow for secular celebrants to solemnize marriages.