INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 8, 2016) – A bill has been filed in the Indiana state House that would end mandatory government licensing of marriages in the state, effectively nullifying in practice both major sides of the contentious national debate over government-sanctioned marriage.

Introduced by Rep. Jim Lucas, House Bill 1041 (HB1041) would eliminate three requirements currently in place in the state.

  1. That individuals obtain a marriage license before getting married
  2. That the marriage be solemnized by an individual specified by state law
  3. That the marriage license be filed with a circuit court clerk and the state department of health.

The bill instead “provides for marriage by marriage contract by any two individuals who are competent to contract in Indiana or otherwise permitted to marry in Indiana.”

The marriage contract, which can be used for proof of a marriage instead of a license, must be in writing. The two parties must be considered competent to enter into legal contracts in the state. The contract also requires at least two witnesses to sign. A marriage contract can also include terms and conditions as part of a premarital agreement.

HB1041 has minor restrictions, mainly prohibiting polygamy and limitations on the duration of the marriage. It also establishes an age requirement, though it does make exceptions under special circumstances.

HB1041 would effectively render the edicts of federal judges that have overturned state laws defining marriage. The founding generation never envisioned unelected judges issuing ex cathedra pronouncements regarding the definition of social institutions like marriage, and the Constitution delegates the federal judiciary no authority to meddle in the issue. Marriage is a realm clearly left to the states and the people.

Christopher Wesley, an associated scholar at the Mises Institute, wrote that “marriage is most endangered when it rests in the coercive hands of the State.”

This bill would be a step toward getting the state government out of defining marriage entirely, ending the squabble between factions that seek to harness its power for their own agendas.

If passed, HB1041 would take effect July 1. It has been referred to the Committee of the Judiciary, where it will first need to pass before the full House can consider it.

TJ Martinell

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