News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 26, 2014

Same-sex marriage licenses expand

More Valley counties issuing licenses

TERRE HAUTE — Clerks in Greene and Vermillion counties said Thursday that their offices are now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Those rural Wabash Valley counties now join Vigo County, which began issuing licenses Wednesday, the same day a federal judge struck down Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban.

On Wednesday, six Vigo County same-sex couples received marriage licenses and were married by Judge Chris Newton at the Vigo County Courthouse. As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, the Vigo County Clerk’s office issued another 10 marriage licenses, about half of those to same-sex couples, according to the clerk’s office.

In Greene County, the clerk’s office waited until hearing from the county attorney and received the go-ahead by Thursday afternoon, said Clerk Susan Fowler.

Fowler noted it takes some time and she suggested those wanting a marriage license be at the office by 2:30 to complete the process; the clerk’s office closes at 4 p.m.

As of mid-afternoon, the clerk’s office had received two phone calls inquiring about marriage licenses for same-sex couples, she said.

The clerk’s office is willing to perform the marriage ceremony, Fowler said.

The Vermillion County Clerk’s office also is issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, said Clerk Florinda Pruitt. The change took effect about noon Thursday, after the clerk’s office consulted with the county attorney.

As of late afternoon, no same-sex couple had sought a marriage license from her office, Pruitt said.

Clerks in Clay, Sullivan and Parke counties were taking a more cautious approach.

The Clay County Clerk’s office is not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples at this time, said Vickie Wheeler. She is consulting with the county attorney, who is on vacation.

She said she needs an “authority” to tell her she can alter the application, which currently designates a “female” and “male.”

“I’m relying on my county attorney to advise me,” she said.

Wheeler said there have been a handful of people calling the office to inquire if they are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. “I say, not at this time,” Wheeler said.

In Sullivan County, Clerk Peggy Goodman said late Thursday afternoon, “We will comply with the law.” But the official state forms designate “male and female” and she has concerns about using those. “I don’t think we can legally alter them,” she said.

The federal court decision striking down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage happened suddenly, and she was out of the office Thursday.

“I don’t think we’ve received anything official from the state saying what we should do,” Goodman said. She needs further information about how to handle the forms and whether the state will make changes in those forms to comply with the court ruling.

“We’re definitely going to comply with the law and issue them [marriage licenses]. We don’t have a problem with that,” Goodman said, “but I don’t want forms to be incorrect.”

She said she will seek clarification on the matter when she returns to work today.

Meanwhile, if same-sex couples go to the clerk’s office seeking marriage licenses, staff have been instructed to give them county-level forms to fill out, and that information later will be transferred to appropriate state forms.

The Sullivan clerk’s office does not use an online marriage application process.

Staff members said that to their knowledge, no same-sex couple had come in and sought a marriage license as of late afternoon Thursday.

In Parke County, Republican Clerk Diana Hazlett said in a prepared statement she did not believe her staff should manually alter the wording of the state’s official marriage license, which indicates male and female applicants. She is waiting for state officials to issue an alternative wording, she said.

In the meantime, Hazlett is advising same-sex couples in Parke County seeking a license to fill out the state form online as much as possible and then, the intent is, “by the time it gets to us, the proper wording will be in place and we can print them out and issue them,” she said.

Parke County had no inquiries about same-sex marriage licenses as of late afternoon Thursday, she said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes contributed to this report.He can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.


 

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