UPDATE: Elkhart County is now issuing marriage licenses for same sex couples. See the story here.
For the first four hours after a federal judge decided that Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, Elkhart County clerks could not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
But then Elkhart County Clerk of Court Wendy Hudson announced at about 4 p.m., Wednesday, June 25, a directive from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office allowed them to do so.
Hudson initially said that she was waiting for an official opinion from the Indiana Attorney General’s office. Until that happened, marriage licenses weren’t issued to same-sex couples in Elkhart County.
A statement from the attorney general’s office said the ruling was still being studied.
“...the Attorney General’s Office soon will advise county clerks who issue marriage licenses as well as the other state defendants — the State Department of Health, the Department of Revenue and the Indiana Public Retirement System — on what changes in procedure Chief Judge Young’s decision imposes upon them during the appeal. The State will ask for a stay of today’s ruling pending appeal,” the statement said.
Other counties in Indiana, including St. Joseph County, started issuing marriage licenses shortly after the decision was made.
Craig Bowen and Jake Miller were married in Indianapolis soon after the ruling, making them the first gay couple to get legally married in the Hoosier state.
Hudson said she believes that other counties issued licenses because they were more involved in the lawsuit that led to Wednesday’s ruling, and their attorneys likely instructed them to start issuing licenses.
"I'm not an attorney, but if my local attorney said 'yes you will do it,' then I would do it," she said about other counties that are already issuing marriage licenses. "I've taken the ruling to the county attorney and he is reading it. When I know for sure I have authority to do so I will."
The decision was made "for their protection as well as for mine,” Hudson said. “Because if I were to issue one and it would turn out that I shouldn't have then it will be an invalid marriage license.”
"I'd prefer to wait until I have a ruling. If we are told we are to issue licenses to same-sex couples, we will of course do so,” she added.
Hudson was out of the office at lunch when U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that Indiana’s ban was unconstitutional.
When she returned from lunch, she met with Elkhart County chief deputy clerk Christopher Anderson and attorneys to figure out how to proceed.
Bryan Corbin, public information officer for the attorney general's office, said in a statement the office is analyzing the federal judge’s rulings and "will communicate with county clerks on proper marriage license procedures they should follow in order to avoid chaos during the appeal."
While Elkhart got its answer before the end of the day, more than 25 of Indiana’s 92 counties were not issuing licenses as of 4:30 p.m., as verified by Elkhart Truth reporters. Another 30 or so county clerks could not be reached for comment before the end of the business day.
"I can tell you that clerks across the state are waiting on the edge of their seats for their ruling," she said.
Any couple who wishes to be married in Elkhart County must apply at the Elkhart County clerks offices in Superior Courts 1, 2 and 3. The offices at the Elkhart County Courthouse, 101 N. Main St., Goshen, and the Elkhart County Courts Building, 315 S. Second St., Elkhart, closed at 4 p.m. Wednesday and will reopen at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Reporters Sharon Hernandez and Angelle Barbazon contributed to this story.