The New York Times reports that a state law in Indiana, on the books since 1997, could be used to imprison same-sex couples that apply for marriage licenses.
The catch in this law that would penalize same-sex couples is that the law makes it a Class D felony to submit false information on a marriage license application or lie about the physical condition, including gender, of a marriage license applicant.
Traditional marriage license applications in Indiana are electronic, and ask for information on both the man and woman. In order for a same-sex couple to fill in the application, one applicant would have to fill out a section indicating they are a different gender than they actually are. This could be seen as a violation of that law and therefore result in penalties of up to 18 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The law also penalizes a clergyman, judge, mayor, city clerk or town clerk-treasurer who performs a marriage between based on such a knowingly “falsified” marriage license application. Such persons can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Oddly that same law makes it only a Class B misdemeanor for a county clerk to issue a marriage license based on information the clerk knows is false. As such, the clerk would not face removal from office if he or she licensed a couple who had so “falsified” their marriage license applications. And that is if the county prosecutor chose to file charges at all.
Indiana has a state law that bans same-sex marriage, but it is not yet a state constitutional amendment. That could come up on the ballot for the 2014 general election. Recent polls have found that a majority of Indiana residents oppose such an amendment, which would be similar to the recently-defeated Prop 8 in California.