Tippecanoe County not so quick to issue same-sex marriage licenses

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LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – A federal judge struck down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday. Several counties across the state immediately started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But some, like Tippecanoe County, did not.

“When you’re growing up gay, you just want your life to be normal like everybody else. It doesn’t matter. We do everything that everybody else does,” said Wayne Applegate.

After the federal judge struck down the ban, Applegate and his partner of 35 years went to the Tippecanoe County Courthouse with other representatives of Pride Lafayette Wednesday to demand answers for why Tippecanoe County wasn’t issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“It’s the day that we have been validated that we are not second class citizens. We are questioning why we are not currently allowed to do the same thing in Tippecanoe County when the federal judge has issued an immediate order,” said Ashley Smith of Pride Lafayette.

Though the chances were slim of getting their marriage license, Applegate and his partner decided to try anyway.

“When I got there, I decided to go right ahead and let’s just get a marriage license while were doing it,” said Applegate. “Unfortunately, in Tippecanoe County, they are not ready with the paperwork yet.”

Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey said the marriage license application has not been updated to reflect anything other than the option of one man and one woman. She says it is a legal violation to modify that form from the Department of Health.

While the federal judge’s ruling covers the entire state, Coffey believes each clerk is getting different guidance from county attorneys and making their own decision on whether to issue the licenses.

“I would hate to issue a license and then have the marriage null and void because I had modified that form, and on a technicality cause an issue,” said Coffey. “I’d rather do it right and make sure we’re complying with all of the laws — the federal law and the state law.”

Coffey said she is waiting on answers from the state on when the application form will be updated. She couldn’t give a definite time frame, but doesn’t think it will take long.

However, her explanation wasn’t enough for Pride Lafayette.

“We’re kind of wanting to know what’s going on. I’m getting as many phone calls as you are probably, so I’m just trying to figure out what I can relay,” asked Smith of the county clerk. “What we can do here?”

Coffey responded by saying her office got the order at the same time as everyone else.

“I’m trying to not cause anyone an issue in the future by issuing a license that might cause an issue. I’ve been told very clearly that I’m not to modify the form and the form says male/female applicants.”

Smith then asked Coffey how other Indiana counties were issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Coffey said she didn’t know.

“Have you reached out to them yet?” asked Smith.

“No, I mean, I haven’t had time,” responded Coffey.

Meanwhile, Applegate says although he wasn’t issued a marriage license, he knows the clerk is working on it and calls today a win.

“We want the right to be married. We want the right to adopt kids. We want the rights to do everything that a heterosexual couple has,” said Appelgate.

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