News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 26, 2014

Daviess Clerk refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses

Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON, Ind. — As same-sex couples throughout Indiana hurry to local courthouses to get marriage licenses, Daviess County will not issue them.

County Clerk Sherri Healy said Thursday morning her office would not issue the licenses and that at least two couples of those who attempted to get licenses were denied.

Although she did receive guidance from the state Attorney General’s office, Healy said there is a “gray area” between the federal court ruling and not having an order from the state to issue them. She also cited her biblical belief in denying the license.

“I’m not sure what the implications of what that will be,” Healy said. “I just want something more concrete and precise.”

Her comment came a day after U.S. District Judge Richard Young declared Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The order set off a wave of same-sex couples across the state to county courthouses asking for licenses.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office, according to the Associated Press, told clerks’ offices to “show respect to the judge and the orders that were issued.”

Daviess County denied a license to a couple on Wednesday, pending word from the state. That word came after the office closed at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Daviess’ neighboring counties, Greene, Knox and Martin, started issuing the licenses as has every other county in southwest Indiana.

Healy said she is still not comfortable issuing the licenses because the Young’s order was for the five counties named in the original suit, not Daviess County.

Tensions reached a high point Thursday as Shawn Colvin and partner Richie Poehlin tried several times to be the first same-sex couple issued a marriage license in Daviess County. Colvin said he tried several times to enter the courthouse and the last time, he said Daviess County sheriff’s deputies were in the building for security.

Colvin, who said he was wearing a microphone for a Terre Haute TV station, said he was denied a license based on a biblical reason.

“It’s ridiculous because in all these counties, it is fine,” Colvin said. “Just because Sherri Healy doesn’t believe in it, it’s not going to happen.”

Healy said later she told Colvin “our country was founded on the biblical principle of one man and one woman in marriage, and until I hear otherwise, that is what I will follow.”

Because both Colvin and Poehlin live in Daviess County, they can’t go to Knox or Martin County for a marriage license.

Colvin said he is upset with Healy’s decision to block his attempt for a license.

“It’s not her place to judge me and being gay is not a choice,” Colvin said of Healy’s refusal.

Colvin plans to go back to the courthouse again today.

Healy said although she personally is against same-sex marriage, she will issue licenses if she receives the order from the state.

“That is my opinion and personal belief,” Healy said of her denials. “And, when I get the order, it won’t stand in the way.”

County Attorney Grant Swartzentruber was not available, Healy said, but she did confer with Daviess Circuit Judge Gregory Smith. According to Healy, Smith agreed with her opinion of waiting.

Another same-sex couple also tried to obtain a license in Daviess County on Thursday morning. James Pirkle II and his partner were denied the license. Pirkle II, 41, said he was disappointed they were not able to receive a license.

“I think it is the clerk’s responsibility to carry out the law which is now lawful,” Pirkle said.

Pirkle and his partner went to Knox County where they were issued the license. “They were kind, courteous and professional and it was done,” he said.

Pirkle said they are planning a small ceremony to celebrate the marriage with his partner, who he has been with for eight years.

“I know there are members of my family [who] want to witness it,” he said.