News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 26, 2014

Area county clerks cautious over issue of same-sex marriage licenses

Sue Loughlin and Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

---- — Same-sex couples seeking a marriage license today in most Wabash Valley counties will have to wait a little longer as county clerks wait for advice from county lawyers or from Indianapolis.

Vigo County was the only exception. The Vigo clerk began issuing licenses to same-sex couples Wednesday.

The Clay County Clerk’s office is not issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples at this time, said Vickie Wheeler, Republican county clerk. 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” in the electronic application form.

“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 Greene County, county clerk Susan Fowler, a Republican, said her office is not yet issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“I’m still waiting on a directive from the county attorney,” she said. “She is at a conference. I’ve left a message with her.” She expects to hear back later today.

In Sullivan County, Clerk Peggy Goodman, a Democrat, was out of the office today and not expected to return until Friday.

An office spokeswoman said that no same-sex couple had come in and sought a marriage license. If they do, the office will provide the paperwork that it has; the Sullivan clerk’s office does not use the online marriage application form.

The process in the clerk’s office usually takes two days, the spokesperson said.

Any further comment had to come from the clerk, she said.

Meanwhile, north of Terre Haute, same-sex couples are not beating down the doors of the Parke and Vermillion county clerks’ offices for marriage licenses today, and it’s a good thing, at least for now.

Neither clerks’ office was issuing same-sex marriage licenses as of this morning.

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

Parke County had had no inquiries for same-sex marriage licenses as of 11 a.m., she said.

In Vermillion County, Clerk Florinda Pruitt, a Democrat, was unavailable this morning, but an official in her office stated the office has mostly received inquiries from the news media, not couples seeking a license. Before issuing any licenses, the Vermillion County office is awaiting notification from the state, the official said, referring further questions to Pruitt, who was expected in the office in the afternoon.