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Clerks get advice on same-sex licenses

But state doesn’t say if they’re valid

– The Indiana Attorney General’s office on Tuesday issued guidance to county clerks dealing with confusion over marriage licenses issued last week to same-sex couples.

A federal court judge struck down Indiana’s gay marriage ban, and couples received marriage licenses all around the state for three days last week before a stay was ordered on the ruling Friday.

Bryan Corbin, spokesman for Attorney General Greg Zoeller, said county clerks have asked questions about the status of licenses.

Zoeller offered some advice, though he cautioned he is not their attorney.

“This guidance is intended to help clerks navigate unfamiliar legal terrain. Guidance is subject to change based on future rulings of the court or future legislative action,” the news release said.

Zoeller’s office hasn’t concluded that same-sex marriage licenses issued or same-sex marriages solemnized between June 25 and June 27 are void or invalid, regardless of whether they have been solemnized or recorded.

“The validity is undetermined, and such issues might have to be determined by a court later.”

Gov. Mike Pence will have to decide whether state government will recognize the marriages that occurred before the stay for state tax and other purposes.

“We’re obtaining counsel from our General Counsel’s Office as well as the attorney general to determine the right way forward for the state of Indiana and the programs in the state of Indiana,” he said.

For situations in which a marriage license was obtained from the county clerk before the stay order was issued, but the signed marriage license is returned to the clerk after the stay began, clerks should respect the 7th Circuit’s stay order and refrain from further processing or recording solemnized same-sex marriage certificates.

Allen County Clerk Lisbeth Borgmann said her office issued 97 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Only one was sent in after the stay, and the office will not process or finalize it.

She said “people are pretty aware that the stays happen fast,” and they held ceremonies quickly.

Corbin also said county clerks, judges and other officials who perform marriages should refrain from solemnizing any additional marriages of same-sex couples – even if a license were issued during the window before the stay – until there is a conclusive ruling in the appeal.

nkelly@jg.net

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