Center for Inquiry v. Clerk, Marion Circuit Court

United States Court Of Appeals For The Seventh Circuit Case No. 12-3751

In May of 2012, CFI sued to allow our secular celebrants to sign marriage certificates proving a couple did marry.  We argue that the government violates the Establishment Clause because it endorses religion over non-religion by allowing religious leaders to sign marriage certificates, yet not allowing CFI-trained secular celebrants.  We also argue it is not equal protection under the laws to allow religions to identify who can perform weddings but not allow CFI.

The defense argues that the Establishment Clause does not protect CFI since CFI is not a religion; and CFI is not entitled to equal protection because the role of marriage is not central to CFI’s beliefs.  We responded that the Establishment Clause protects non-religions that, like CFI, have a philosophy that addresses matters of “ultimate concern” that occupy a “place parallel to that filled by . . . God in traditionally religious persons.”  We point out that the guarantee of equal protection is not based upon the beliefs regarding the role of marriage, but the reasons the government created the law.  Those reasons are to make sure the marriage actually occurred and that the certificate contains the correct names of the couple, date of marriage and is filed in the correct office.  Obviously, CFI’s secular celebrants are capable of doing that and are as interested in it being done correctly as religious leaders.

On November 30, 2012, Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruled against CFI, calling marriage an act of religious “accommodation.” CFI has appealed, and April 19, 2013 is the date of the appellate argument in our case to create fairness in the choice of who can perform weddings.

The decision is available here (.pdf).