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Opening Arguments

A solemn misdemeanor

You know that next session the General Assembly will consider a resolution to have a voter referendum on whether to put Indiana's same-sex-marriage ban into the state constitution. But perhaps you didn't know this provision of Indiana law just approved in the last session:

In what appears to be a rather massive violation of the freedom of religion, the Republican party in Indiana appears to have amended the state criminal code to either make it a crime, or confirm that it remain a crime, for clergy to conduct weddings for gay couples.

While it is not widely known, numerous mainstream American religions permit gay nuptials. The faiths include reform Judaism, Evangelical Lutherans, Episcopalians, and the United Church of Christ, among others.

The amendment to the criminal code, which will go into effect on July 1, 2014, makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000 for clergy “solemnize” a marriage of two men or two women.

Here's that provision in the Indiana Code. I certainly wasn't aware of it. As the article notes, a lot will depend on how "solemnize" is interpreted, but the intent seems pretty clear. No matter where you are on the gay-marriage thing, this state intrusion into religious prerogatives should be at least a little troubling. "Solemnizing" a living arrantment as a religious cermony has nothing whatsoever to do with a couple's legal status, so the state has no legitimate interest here.