INDIANAPOLIS — Applying for a marriage license in Indiana is not a good idea for same-sex couples, even if you know or expect it is going to be denied.
It could land the couple a possible three year prison sentence.
Recent advances in same-sex marriage rights have emboldened some marriage equality activists to take their campaign directly to the people enforcing the laws by applying for marriage licenses at clerk’s offices and registrar’s desks around the nation, knowing their application will be rejected.
Earlier this year, in fact, the WE DO Campaign swept through seven southern states — Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South and North Carolina and Virginia — and did just that.
But under a 1997 Indiana law, it’s a Class D felony to submit false information on a marriage license application or lie about the physical condition, including gender, of a marriage license applicant, reports the Northwest Indiana Times.
Same-sex couples seeking to marry would trigger the law for submitting the application to their county clerk — even if it’s denied.
The law also penalizes clergyman, judge, mayor, city clerk or town clerk-treasurer who solemnizes a marriage between two people of the same gender. Those who conduct a gay marriage ceremony can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
The state’s lawmakers recently passed an overhaul of the the Indiana criminal code to take effect on July 1, 2014 that would reduce the severity of the felony charges as well as reducing the maximum prison time to 18 months in prison and a potential fine of up to $10,000. The number of the state’s residents who have been charged under the current law is unknown.
Indiana currently does not have a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, however, the Republican-controlled General Assembly will have under consideration for the January-March 2014 legislative session, a proposed constitutional amendment — which also prohibits any form of civil unions — to pass and then submit to the state’s voters for ratification.
The amendment is supported by GOP Governor Mike Pence who has declared his intent to sign the measure and if passed, would appear on the November 2014 general elections ballot.
Recent polling in Indiana have found a majority of the state’s voters oppose a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage as well as civil unions.