Protest Marriage in Indiana? Don’t Even Think About It

Part of the strategy to get same-sex marriages recognized nationwide has been to apply for marriage applications and ignore the fact that the state didn’t recognize the union. Indiana’s tired of it and doing so could get you, your partner, and everyone involved some jail time and a fine.

A 1997 law in Indiana that makes supplying false information on a marriage license or application a class D felony has been recently updated. Beginning July 1, 2014 any same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses will automatically fall under this statute and be liable for prosecution. The penalty for breaking the law? Because it is a Level 6 penalty, couples could be punished with up to 18 months in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

The law also is applicable to those who conduct any gay marriages: any city clerk, clergyman, judge, mayor, or town clerk-treasurer who performs a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, facing up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.

While the law’s updated status drops the jail time down from three years it had before, the change comes at a poignant time with federal decisions on gay marriage and campaigns starting up in the new gay marriage “battleground states.”

The state’s position on same-sex marriage seems evident when combined with a decision needed for the coming January-March 2014 legislative session: whether or not to send a constitutional amendment to Indiana citizens to prevent civil unions or gay marriage within the state. The legislature is largely Republican-controlled and the amendment has great support from Governor Mike Pence. Would the decision pass the legislature, Indiana constituents would be able to vote on the question during the November 4, 2014 general election.

This form of civil disobedience—showing how certain people are second-class citizens because of what they are denied, is popular with campaigns like “WE DO” from the Campaign for Southern Equality, among others. If this applied across the country, protests around the country would be punishable, including celebratory marriages like the one held across the street from Westboro Baptist Church along with similar protests all across the country in recent years.

While parts of the country are opening up to same-sex marriage and preparing for equality in other areas (job discrimination anyone?), others are tightening their grip on traditional marriage amendments and a two-tiered system. Attitudes are changing, but it is still going to be long fight all across the nation.