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Indiana criminalizes marriage equality and pro-LGBT clergy

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It's already against the law for same-sex couples to get married in Indiana, and the legislators in the state have recently updated the existing law, reminding some and informing others that it's actually a criminal offense for a same-sex couple to even try to get married.

A 1997 law classified submitting false information on a marriage license as a class D felony. Because the marriage licenses in Indiana require that there be a male applicant and a female applicant, any same-sex couple applying for a marriage license would have to submit false information.

The maximum sentence is now 18-months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, which is a downgrade from the previous three year maximum sentence. Though technically, the change from class D to class 6 is technically a downgraded sentence, the change in the law brought attention to a part of the law that many people weren't even aware of.

On top of reminding everyone that you can actually be arrested for trying to get married, the Indiana legislature passed a law stating that anyone who "solemnizes" the marriage of a same-sex couple can face up to 180 days in prison, and a $1,000 fine.

Since Indiana law pretty clearly states that solemnization is something that happens before the paperwork for a marriage is turned into the state, this law implies that anyone who conducts a solemn marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple is in danger of being arrested.

This means that any clergy or congregation that chooses to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples are at risk for criminal punishment. Clergy have always had the legal right to choose who they want, or do not want to marry – without any hindrance from the government because of the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

For as long as the marriage equality debate has existed, conservative religious opposition has expressed the fear of breached religious freedom. Pro marriage equality legislators have been sure to bend over backwards to include religious protections in marriage legislation to ensure that no one is "forced" to conduct a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Indiana legislature believes that religious freedom only extends to those who oppose marriage equality.

In light of the recent SCOTUS decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, the fight for marriage equality is now a state issue. The ACLU and Lambda Legal have launched suits in states such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina in order to begin the process of passing marriage equality in those respective states.

In a time that is so crucial to the lives of LGBT and allied Americans, it is more important than ever to understand what role our government is playing in our everyday lives. When we have to start asking if everyone is entitled to religious freedom, we have to ask ourselves if our government is really working for the good of all people.

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