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UPDATE: State Unsure If It'll Appeal Atheist Celebrant Case

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Allison Taylor
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https://www.flickr.com/photos/allison_taylor/

The Indiana Attorney General’s office says it hasn’t decided whether to appeal a ruling allowing atheist leaders to solemnize marriages in the state. 

That’s despite the group that brought the lawsuit – atheist group Center for Inquiry – announcing its victory Thursday.

Indiana’s marriage statute regulates who can make a marriage official – any religious clergy and certain government officials like mayors and judges. The Center for Inquiry filed a lawsuit in 2012 challenging the statute, saying it discriminates against non-religious people. 

A U-S District Court judge ruled against CFI but last month the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision.  And CFI announced that the state declined to appeal the 7th Circuit’s ruling, clearing the way for secular celebrants to officiate marriages.  

But the Indiana Attorney General’s office says the District Court has only issued a narrow order directing the state to allow CFI-certified celebrants to solemnize marriages.  CFI Executive Director Reba Boyd Wooden says even that narrow order means a lot to Hoosiers…and not just atheists.

“There’s people that, even though they’re religious, don’t want a religious ceremony because some of the churches and so on require counseling," she says.  "They require that you do it in the church; they have a bunch of strings attached to doing the religious weddings and some of these people don’t want to go through that.”

ACLU-Indiana legal director Ken Falk, who represents CFI, says the District Court has only issued an order directing the state to allow CFI-certified celebrants to solemnize marriages.  He says if the state opts not to appeal, that order becomes permanent.

“So the real question then after this is how the Indiana General Assembly deals with this case when it comes back into session next year, are they going to…how they’re going to amend the statute to allow for secular celebrants as well as the other celebrants,” Falk says.

The state has 90 days from the 7th Circuit’s ruling to appeal.  In a statement, CFI apologized for creating confusion and says it hopes the state still opts not to continue the case.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.