United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
LINDA G. SUMMERS, Plaintiff,
SALLY WHITIS, in her official capacity as the Harrison County Clerk, and HARRISON COUNTY, INDIANA, Defendants.
ENTRY ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
RICHARD L. YOUNG, JUDGE.
Linda G. Summers, formerly worked as a deputy clerk at the
Harrison County Clerk's Office. As part of that job, she
was required to process marriage licenses. A few months after
the Seventh Circuit affirmed this court's decision to
enjoin the state of Indiana from enforcing its ban on
same-sex marriage, a same-sex couple came to the Clerk's
Office in hopes of securing a marriage license. Summers told
her boss, Sally Whitis, that she could not process the
application. Whitis replied that she was required to do so as
part of her job duties, but Summers still refused. Whitis
consequently processed the application herself. The next day,
Summers submitted a religious accommodation request and
Whitis terminated her employment for insubordination.
filed this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.,
alleging religious discrimination in the decision to
discharge her. All parties now move for summary judgment. The
court holds that Summers' religious convictions did not
excuse her from performing the ministerial duties associated
with processing a marriage license, and therefore GRANTS
Defendants' motion and DENIES Summers' motion.
Harrison County Clerk's Office and Summers' Job
Harrison County resident intending to marry is required to
obtain a marriage license from either the Harrison County
Clerk's Office or the Clerk's Office for the county
in which his/her partner resides. Ind. Code §§
31-11-4-3, 31-11-4-1. The Clerk's Office is responsible
for recording marriage applications, including the licenses
and certificates of marriage, in a book for public record.
Ind. Code § 31-11-4-4(b). It is also responsible for
collecting a $10.00 fee for the issuance of a marriage
license, and remitting that fee to the state treasurer. Ind.
Code § 33-32-5-1(a).
Whitis is, and was at all relevant times, the elected Clerk
of Harrison County, Indiana. (Filing No. 45-1, Deposition of
Sally Whitis 5:23-25, 10:1-7). As Clerk, Whitis ran the
Circuit Court Clerk's Office, the Superior Court
Clerk's Office, and the Election Office. (Id.
14:19-25). In that role, she is and was responsible for
supervising ten employees, including Summers. (Id.
worked in the Superior Court Clerk's Office as a deputy
clerk. (Id. 21:18-25, 22:19-23). She had various
duties in that position, including processing marriage
licenses. (Id. 22:19-23:10). In order to process a
marriage license, Summers had to pull up the application
(which was completed online by the couple prior to coming to
the Clerk's Office), verify that the application was
complete, and then print the license. (Filing No. 45-2,
Deposition of Linda Summers 39:16-40:1). In her deposition,
Summers agreed that, when it came to processing marriage
licenses, her duties essentially boiled down to
“input[ing] the information and giv[ing] the forms
out.” (Id. 114:11-13). She did not solemnize
marriages, nor did she personally sign the marriage license
or certificate. (Id. 114:5-10).
Clerk's Office's Adjustment to Indiana's
Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages
September 4, 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held
that Indiana's refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry
violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Baskin v. Bogan, 766 F.3d 648, 672 (7th
Cir. 2014). Shortly thereafter, on October 6, the Supreme
Court denied Indiana's petition for writ of certiorari,
making the Seventh Circuit's ruling final. Bogan v.
Baskin, 135 S.Ct. 316 (2014).
same day, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General issued a
memorandum to all elected Clerks, stating, in relevant part:
Today the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it had denied the
state's request to hear an appeal of the decision made
last month by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
That denial of the state's request means that the
7th Circuit will issue a “mandate”
very soon that will implement the injunction issued by Chief
Judge Young in June. As soon as that mandate is issued-and it
could be as early as today-county clerks will be prohibited
from denying marriage licenses to same sex couples so long as
all other marriage license requirements are met. It would be
advisable to start making necessary preparations to process
marriage license applications and issue licenses accordingly.
No. 45-3, Attorney General Memorandum).
October 22, Whitis sent an e-mail to all Clerk's Office
employees, including Summers, stating:
While I was on vacation, the Supreme Court has ordered
Indiana to proceed with gay marriages.
Therefore, it is our duty in the Clerk's Office to
process those applications. The process in
Incite has been modified to accommodate these
Even though it may be against your personal beliefs, we are
required by state law to process their applications. We are
only doing the paperwork and not performing their ceremony.
I expect everyone to please comply. Thanks.
No. 45-4, Whitis E-Mail).
Summers' Refusal to Process a Marriage License for a
December 8, 2014, a same-sex couple came to the Superior
Court Clerk's Office and requested a marriage license
from Summers. (Summers Dep. 59:24-25). Summers noticed that
one of the individuals was a woman, but “didn't pay
too much attention” to the other person. (Id.
60:2-17). She went to her computer, opened the Incite system,
and pulled up the couple's application. (Id.