Can clerks refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses? A guide to the legal debate

Print More
County clerk office sign. Photo by Steven Damron via Flickr Creative Commons.

County clerk office sign. Photo by Steven Damron via Flickr Creative Commons.

Guest post by Daniel Bennett

Just days after the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, stories emerged from around the country of clerks and other officials who objected to issuing licenses in response to the ruling. Most cited their religious beliefs as motivation.

“In good conscience I cannot put my name on one of those licenses,” one Kentucky clerk said.

A Texas clerk pledged to “only issue marriage licenses consistent with Texas law, so help me God.”

This raises an obvious question: can government officials really do this?

Clerks who refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples have their work cut out for them if they are to prevail. As state employees they are responsible for executing state law, regardless of religious beliefs.

But if they can convince a court that the state is coercing them into violating their deeply held convictions, and if a reasonable alternative arrangement exists, then they may have a shot.

It will be up to the courts to decide what is “reasonable” and what isn’t. A court may see it as reasonable for a couple to wait a few extra minutes while the marriage office quietly arranges for a different employee to issue the license. But the longer the wait and less equal the treatment, the less likely the courts are to see the religious exception as acceptable. Plus, some offices may not have anyone willing to grant the license. What then?

Last week, a video of a same-sex couple went viral after it showed them being denied a marriage license at their county clerk’s office. The clerk, Kim Davis, had earlier decided to stop issuing licenses of any kind in response to the Court’s decision in Obergefell.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has ordered clerks in his state to either issue the licenses, or resign from office. And the ACLU has gotten involved in at least one case, suing Davis for her refusal to issue licenses and arguing her position violates the 14th Amendment rights of all couples seeking licenses.

Liberty Counsel, which is defending Davis in her lawsuit, knows that state offices cannot refuse to follow the law because of their religious beliefs. Instead, it is arguing that those who took their oaths before the legal definition of marriage changed should be given latitude in refusing licenses.

Screenshot of interactive map of Texas counties not issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Dallas Morning News Research.

Screenshot of interactive map of Texas counties not issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Dallas Morning News Research.

Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas informed clerks they can refuse to issue licenses that conflict with their religious beliefs. And some legal interest groups are offering to defend officials who object to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on religious grounds. “If somebody has a religious objection to performing a duty and somebody else can perform that duty, and everything gets done, that’s what the law requires,” said Kelly Shackleford, president of Liberty Institute.

This defense may be unnecessary because almost all county clerks are issuing licenses, regardless of their religious beliefs. The Dallas Morning News surveyed Texas counties after Paxton’s statement on refusing marriage licenses. Only one county, Kimble County, said that it was not issuing licenses because of religious objections.

But Kimble County Clerk Haydee Torres later said that her office would likely issue a license to a same-sex couple. Torres told the Los Angeles Times, “I do have a problem with the religious aspect of it, because I know what the Bible says. But we’re going to do what our attorney advises.”

Kimble County’s attorney is giving sound advice. The county may be able to accommodate an employee who has religious objections. But refusal by the county to issue a license would be nearly impossible to defend in court.

Bottom line: States may be able to find a way to accommodate employees with religious objections to same-sex marriage. The legality of these accommodations will depend on whether same-sex couples are still able to receive equal treatment. But complete refusals are almost certainly illegal.

Daniel Bennett (@bennettdaniel) researches the conservative legal movement. He is a professor of political science at Eastern Kentucky University.

Don’t miss any more posts from the Corner of Church & State. Click the red subscribe button in the right hand column. Follow @TobinGrant on Twitter and on the Corner of Church & State Facebook page.

  • Tim G

    Employees are expected to follow the rules laid out by their employer.

  • Ben in oakland

    Christian exceptionalism: I don’t have to do my job because I have made up something about my right of conscience, even though all I am doing is filling out some paperwork and filing it, and have on more to do with your marriage than does the man sweeping the floor in my office.

    ““I do have a problem with the religious aspect of it, because I know what the Bible says.” That four times married Kentucky clerk also knows what her bible says about that, but that doesn’t stop her. The bible also says it is a sin not to believe that Jesus died for your sins. But that doesn’t prevent their oh-so-delicate consciences from issuing a license to people who worship false gods or no gods at all.

    If these people had any true principles in any of this, they would simply resign their jobs.

    It’s just VERY telling that their Christian consciences act up whenever they have to act compassionately, decently, and politely to the people they obvious despise, but pretend they don’t.

  • Ben in oakland

    Especially when it might actually cost them a paycheck, health insurance, and a generous pension plan.

  • Franklin

    These marriage certificates are not that many in number, the employer can always assign clerks who have no religious objection to issuing these licenses to these cases and solve the problem.

    Every problem has a solution if you are resolved to solve a problem, if you have the will, you’ll find a way to solve it.

  • Dominic

    My sympathies go to those who truly are against assisting the gay marriage law on valid Christian grounds. But, as civil servants, handing over a piece of paper to be filled out does not seem to be an act that requires their consent or dissent. I would guess that they could have another person sign it, to avoid any personal collusion, but , to me, it doesn’t violate their personal relgious belief. Gays could try to respect the quandary they place another person in and request another clerk, but their pride of self grandeur as teachers of law wants to punish all those w don’t embrace them. Reverse discrimination.

  • Shawnie5

    Too much trouble. There’s a far simpler solution already in the works. Texas is ideally situated to implement it — let’s just hope they have the good sense to go with it:

  • ben in oakland

    You started off so well that I was about to commend you. And then you went right to where I would always think you’ll be– gay people are horrible icky people who will force others to bow down to them.

    so it doesn’t violate their personal beliefs, but they STILL shouldn’t have to treat those horrible icky gay people the way they treat everyone else, and the way they would expect to be treated.

    but then, the golden Rule and Jesus’s words have never had much attraction for antigay people.

  • ben in oakland

    Right shawnie. call a special session and spend a lot of money to make sure that gay people don’t get treated the same as anyone else in order to placate a handful of bible-hypocritical so-called Christians who are just too damned special to do the job the taxpayers are paying for.

    how about they show some REAL principles and resign their jobs? Oh wait. That might cost them something personally, when being an antigay hypocrite ought to be very cheap.

    Christian exceptionalism. No render unto Caesar for the likes of them. Segregaiton forever, right?

  • Shawnie5

    “…call a special session and spend a lot of money to make sure that gay people don’t get treated the same as anyone else”

    That’s the whole point…everybody WOULD be treated like everyone else. The only thing that would change is, no one would have to participate if they didn’t want to. Either a certificate signed by the officiating minister, or a declaration executed by the parties themselves, filed in the county records and equally binding. Simple.

    Opposition to a totally neutral, strictly procedural solution such as this one is an excellent barometer of whether one cares more about equality or about bullying.

  • Shawnie5

    “That might cost them something personally, when being an antigay hypocrite ought to be very cheap.”

    We’re prepared to pay a cost where it’s necessary. But why should anyone’s free exercise of religion have to cost anything? That is something the founders intended to prevent–and they didn’t have “marriage licenses” either.

  • ben in oakland

    and exactly the same thing could be said of special legislation being created to enable a handful of people to not do the jobs they were hired for.

    I could certainly live with that law, and I agree with you in principle.

    But I will NEVER fail to point out that it is one more example of conservative Christian exceptionalism, especially when it comes to gay people.

    what would you say if the same legislation were created for the sole purpose of allowing the same clerks to not issue licenses to demon worshipping hindus or jesus denying jews or false gospel believing Mormons? Or allowing anti-theist clerks not to provide licenses for true believers?

  • ben in oakland

    you said it. Not me.

  • Shawnie5

    No, I just choose not to waste my time taking issue with tired insults. They are so par for the course from you guys that I hardly notice them.

  • Shawnie5

    Not one thing — if the end result were the same.

    I would respond to any suggestion that my marriage is not valid with a smile, a shrug, and a “have-a-nice-day.” I wish you guys were just as secure–then maybe you could leave the rest of us alone.

  • ben in oakland

    Of course you can say that, but that might be because it would never happen. And you know it.

    you are being left alone. But you still want to give yourselves an excuse not to treat gay people the same as anyone else.

    as I said, it’s just Christian exceptionalism. If someone did that to a hetero Mormon couple, you can bet that the screams of religious discrimination would be very loud indeed.

    And oyu wouldn’t be writing excuses for it, but screaming just as loudly.

  • Argie

    Doesn’t stand a change in hades. Nor should it. Texas grandstanding.

  • Dominic

    Just trying to be realistic, Ben. If gays showed, and I’m sure most would, some sensitivity to the people they deal with in regards to gay marriage, the animosity could disappear over time. You can’t be that unaware that committing sin willingly is anathema to some religious people. Why bother them unneccessrily when options are easily available?

  • Ben in oakland

    Bullbleep. Where was this concern when they were calling us threats to marriage, family, children, heterosexuality, faith, freedom, and western civilization?

    Here’s a sin that 2/3 of the world commits every single day. They don’t buy the Christian story. Yet this seems to get no Christian particularly riled up, causes no unwavering stream of invective and despite, promulgates no political campaigns, requires no donations to stop the (insert your god here)-believing heretics.

    Why is it that I can reject the totality of conservative Christian belief, and this others NO ONE but the most rabid fundamentalist. But let me say that I am gay, and expect to be treated just the same as every one else conservative Christians believe are going to burn in hell forever…

    and suddenly, their delicate consciences must be catered to, their rights are in jeopardy, their freedom endangered.

    It would be refreshing if just once they would proudly admit their bigotry.

  • Larry

    Assuming only that the clerks have enough clerks to go around to do so. The whole point of this kind of nonsense objection is to make it difficult for anyone outside of a major municipality to obtain marriage licenses, due to lack of “non-objecting” staff at a particular office.

    Of course there is no legal basis for their objecting to doing their jobs in the first place. The best solution is just fire the people. I feel no need to be sympathetic to people who want to pretend their prejudices have approval of the civil government.

    States do not need to be wasting taxpayer money on frivolous lawsuits to defend such obvious discriminatory behavior as representatives of the government.

  • Shawnie5

    Well, that’s what most people used to say about gay marriage.

    As for “shoulds,” there’s no reason why a state shouldn’t choose any method it pleases for recording marriages.

  • Larry

    Even simpler, quit. Be a good Christian martyr willing to sacrifice themselves on religious principles. Oh no, you can’t have that. If a Christian forbids something, everyone has to be forced to join in suit.

    Why should the rest of the state suffer for the bigotry of a few clerks who do not understand the nature of their employment.

    As representatives of state or municipal governments, their personal beliefs cannot be used as an excuse to discriminate against the public in their duties.

  • Larry

    Because its not free exercise of religion we are talking about here. We are talking about using religious belief as an excuse to harm others intentionally. No more the free exercise of religion than human sacrifice, burning a cross on your lawn or forcibly baptizing the children of someone else.

    If a Christian is acting, its “religious freedom” if a Christian is being acted against, its “persecution”. Complete bullcrap.

  • Shawnie5

    “Of course you can say that, but that might be because it would never happen. And you know it.”

    Oh, I don’t know…probably Catholics would say that since I am not part of the one true church and therefore anathema, that my marriage is nonexistent before God. Doesn’t bother me one bit.

    “If someone did that to a hetero Mormon couple, you can bet that the screams of religious discrimination would be very loud indeed.”

    I doubt it. They’re pretty secure in their convictions, too.

    “But you still want to give yourselves an excuse not to treat gay people the same as anyone else.” This is a way for EVERYBODY to be treated the same — as in marriage by agreement alone, just like marriage was for most of human history. I may think your arrangement is wrong and not want to be involved in it, but you’re welcome to consider mine wrong as well and not be involved, and neither of us has to care. Sounds like a win-win for reasonable people.

  • Shawnie5

    There is no harm to anyone under the proposed Texas plan.

  • Shawnie5

    The “rest of the state” would not suffer at all under the proposed Texas plan, and neither would the clerks. Win-win for all.

  • Roy Chandler

    Solution? Who is interested in solving any problem. If it were so, the world would be more advanced that it is today. Fire all those people who refuse to perform homosexual unions. That is about the only solution there is to the issue.

    It is interesting how less than 1% of the world’s population is holding rest of the world hostage to their ‘way of life’.

    Also interesting is that ‘Homosexuality’ seems to be about the only topic that is discussed on a forum on “religion”.

  • ben in oakland

    “Fire all those people who refuse to perform homosexual unions. That is about the only solution there is to the issue. ” Or they could just do their jobs, rather than claim a special dispensation not to. They are not having perform homosexual unions. They are filling out paperwork.

    “It is interesting how less than 1% of the world’s population is holding rest of the world hostage to their ‘way of life’. I can’t see where this is happening, but then you can’t see that it is nonsense. you are not being held hostage, you’re being persecuted, you’re not a part of my wedding. you are a clerk who is refusing to do his job, and claiming that god told you it was just fine.

    “Also interesting is that ‘Homosexuality’ seems to be about the only topic that is discussed on a forum on “religion”.” You’re right. It is just amazing how obsessed some so-called religious people are with the sex lives of people they don’t know.

  • ben in oakland

    sorry NOT being persecuted.

  • Larry

    Of course there is. You are creating new systems for handling a situation because people refuse to do their jobs for reasons that lack any legitimate purpose. Creating a “separate but equal” system rather than treating the public equitably. You are sanctioning a new right for government officials to engage in discrimination.

    Why should ANY accommodation be made for people who think government service must reflect their personal prejudices? It is unnecessary.

  • Larry

    “there’s no reason why a state shouldn’t choose any method it pleases for recording marriages.”

    Ease of access of records from other states, federal government comes to mind. Plus the fact that such methods are spurred entirely by the unwillingness of government employees to do their job. Such proposals are are meant to promote excuses for discriminatory practices for government officials.

    Lets face it, nobody has any business bending over backwards to accommodate bigoted government clerks who refuse to serve the entire public, as necessary to their job duties. Do your job or get fired/sued for it.

  • Larry

    Of course they would suffer. You are creating a system to sanction discriminatory behavior by local clerks by creating a parallel system. I don’t need clerks to “win” here. Their interests in not doing their job does not demand accommodation or changes.

  • Shawnie5

    There would be no new “system” at all. Marriage is marriage. The only real difference would be the type of paper form used and who is required to sign it (there has to be a change of form anyway unless one guy wants to be the “bride” — so much for “we just want the same thing you have.”) And it would be the same form for both gay and straight couples.

    Yes, I know you think the perfect solution to any difficulty is for everyone to just do things your way, but nobody made you the judge of whose beliefs deserve protection or not. Others have opinions and rights that can quite easily be accommodated, and should be.

  • Shawnie5

    “Plus the fact that such methods are spurred entirely by the unwillingness of government employees to do their job. ” It makes no difference what “spurs” any kind of procedural change if nobody’s rights are diminished by it.

    “Nobody has any business bending over backwards to accommodate bigoted government clerks who refuse to serve the entire public.” On the contrary — it is exactly the state’s business to decide what clerical procedures will serve its citizens most smoothly and efficiently and protect the interests of ALL its citizens. YOU, on the other hand, “have no business” saying what THEIR business is. Get over yourself.

  • Shawnie5

    “…what their business ISN’T,” rather.

  • Larry

    Nobody needs any solution here besides remove the uncooperative bigots from their posts. Nobody needs to come up with a half baked, discriminatory system to serve the needs of government officials who refuse to uphold their duty to the public.

    Your solution sanctions behavior which is unacceptable for public officials and is entirely unnecessary. That alone is harm to the public.

    Even plainer, I don’t have to give a crap about bigots who want to abuse the term, religious freedom as an excuse to attack rights of others.

  • Larry

    Get over yourself. You guys lost your big court case and now you want a second shot at discrimination under color of law.

    If you are so deranged by such religious bigotry, then maybe public service is not really suitable for you. But don’t pretend I have to take your desire to harm others seriously as a matter of public policy. Your interest in legalized discrimination isn’t worth squat.

  • Shawnie5

    Larry, once again you’ve waded in over your head. There is nothing “discriminatory” about a paper change which calls for one less signature and protects everyone’s rights equally. And the people of the state of Texas will decide what they “need,” not you.

    Even if all of the clergy and clerks and JP’s in the state of Texas refused TODAY to be involved in any more marriage, nobody would be denied marriage. It already exists informally.

    But thank you for (as I expected) being the first to demonstrate that your primary aim in all this has been to bully those who don’t want to play tea-party with you — not to secure equal rights.

  • Shawnie5

    There can be no “second shot at discrimination” where there is no discrimination possible.

    “But don’t pretend I have to take your desire to harm others seriously as a matter of public policy ” Where has ANYBODY expressed any interest in “being taken seriously” by you???

  • Larry

    No Shawnie, you are missing the point and even more obnoxiously you are pushing complete dishonest bullcrap. Nobody who seeks a civil law marriage should or ever need to go through a common law marriage sysyem instead.

    You are entitled to a license for a civil law marriage, you get one. If you have a problem issuing one, tough crap. It’s not your call.

    Clerks unwilling to issue one because of personal prejudices don’t need to be working there. I don’t have to hear your nonsense “solutions” to sanction such nonsense.

    Easiest solution, fire and he uncooperative clerks. Their interests are worthless. They want a privilege no government officials should have.

  • Larry

    Kentucky already implemented an easy solution to this fictional problem without making any changes whatsoever. Clerks who don’t want to do their jobs will be fired.

    What you don’t understand is that nobody should be forced to seek any substitute for a civil law marriage license. Nor do these clerks have a right to deny the licenses to anyone. The interests of bigoted Christians to give their bad acts legal sanction are unworthy of government support.

    Either do the job or find another one.

  • Larry

    Can anyone give a good reason why government clerks who want to discriminate and abuse their position should keep their jobs?

    I don’t see one. It sure as hell isn’t religious freedom.

  • Dominic

    Bigotry towards sin, yes, it is required of all religions. Bigotry towards sinners is unchristian, a whole different scenario. Enabling someone to sin, however one interprets that, could be viewed as aiding and abetting.
    Not feeding or helping a gay person because they are gay would be sin itself. Assisting gay men to marry is on par with aiding someone to cheat on their spouse….the acts are sinful. Forcing someone to violate their conscious to benefit yourself is wrong, sinful if you are religious.
    I’m not positive it’s always an act of discrimination….each case is different.

  • Dominic

    You’re assuming the clerks are all lying about their religious commitment, right? Some may be, but that needs to be worked out at the local level. Threatening someone’s job because of their conscious is unfair. I’d imagine the great majority of clerks could care less.

  • Greg1

    I really see nothing wrong with refusal to join gay couples into a state sanctioned union. But it is by the coercion of the feds that are driving this thing, not the states. Some states do, some don’t. But this type of refusal is really no different than any other civil disobedience, such as growing and selling marijuana in Colorado, which is against the federal law, yet ignored. Or the border guards who refuse to capture Mexican citizens from entering into our country illegally, that ignores federal law, yet government officials are the ones ignoring the law. So a county clerk who refuses to join two gay people into a union, then so be it. Until ALL laws are followed, then ANY and ALL are up for grabs. It apparently is the discretion of the government employee whether or not follow federal laws. So have at it.

  • Greg J

    If I thought the goal of same sex marriage was to replace traditional marriage I would be cheering on some clerks. I don’t think that is the goal. Anyone, gay or straight, who is the product of a traditional marriage and values those family bonds are not going to want to damage that institution. Yes I believe God instituted marriage but I beleive the result of marriage, that is family, is more important than the legal documents that we file. I don’t find a beleif that says God intended marriages to create people and for those peole to remain in relationship with Him and each other unreasonable. I do find valueing a document more than a person a little unreasonable which is probably the case in too many of these instances.

  • ben in oakland

    Bigotry towards sin is twisting the meaning of the word. Bigotry towards sinners is very common if they happen to be gay.

    it’s one thing to believe homosexuality is a sin. Have at it. I frankly don’t care.

    It’s quite another thing to claim we hate religion, we hate morality, we hate heterosexuals, we are dangers to children, faith, family, freedom, marriage, heterosexuality, and western civilization. You need read only the comments of many of the antigay who post here, or the campaign lies of any national antigay organization.

    If you think these things don’t exist, you are either simply not paying any attention, or you agree with it.

  • Shawnie5

    If that is how the people of Kentucky wish to deal with it, fine. Texas may wish to deal with it differently–Michigan too, from what I hear. And are well within their rights to do so. This is a procedural matter, not really a substantive one.

  • Shawnie5

    “You are entitled to a license for a civil law marriage, you get one.”

    And if the state changes the relevant statutes such that no one is entitled to a license (because they no longer exist) then you avail yourself of the replacement instead. Marriage licenses did not exist in this country until the middle of the 19th century — they were purely a statutory creation– and nobody is “entitled” to them if a state doesn’t wish to use them.

    Keep raging. You prove my point for me better than I ever could alone.

  • No, its that their “religious commitment” isn’t free exercise of religion. They seek legal sanction to harm others. Religious freedom never included such behavior. Not unlike how defamation, incitement to riot and fraud are not considered free speech.

    Threatening someone’s job because they refuse to carry out their duties to serve the entire public is more than appropriate. They are willfully denying access to government services. Eff them. There is nothing unfair about removing people from a public position who are abusing authority to harm the public.

  • The Texas solution is simply promoting discrimination and denying people their right of access to civil marriage.

    Lets face it, all you are looking for is a de facto gay marriage ban by trying to shunt people away from the ease and entitlement to the civil marriage process. You are looking for alternatives to people doing their jobs as intended, to accommodate bigots who want to abuse their authority as public servants. It is an unnecessary procedural change to promote behavior which is unacceptable for any civil servants.

    A “solution” which is neither necessary, nor acceptable behavior for state governments. Nobody believes for one moment that the intention and purpose for such activities is anything other than discrimination against gays. Of course you will continue the act of pretending otherwise. We wouldn’t expect anything else from you.

  • larry

    So what is the purpose for such proposed changes?

    Oh right, clerks who want to discriminate against gays but lack legitimate means to do so.

    Why should any state make those proposed changes?

    There is absolutely no need for them whatsoever.

    Marriage licenses are a convenience for state record keeping and FOR tons of various interests which intersect with the rights and obligations of married couples. We didn’t need them back then, but are plenty useful right now. No need to do away with them to serve your bigotry. This is why Fundies can’t have nice things.

  • Shawnie5

    Nobody is entitled to a license created by statute if the statute is changed to abolish them. Discrimination does not exist where everyone receives the same treatment. And the people of the state through their representatives decide what is necessary for them, not uninformed squawkers on internet forums.

    Keep raging, you poor choleric dear.

  • Shawnie5

    The purpose is to eliminate the potential for conflict between the civil rights of one citizen and the religious freedom of another, thus streamling the entire marriage process. An entirely legitimate purpose.

    A marriage license accomplishes nothing for “record-keeping purposes” that a certificate of marriage does not accomplish just as efficiently. These things are all entered into the same databases and are easily referenced by anyone who has a need to see them.

    Keep raging…

  • Be Brave

    This is ridiculous. Jesus ate with sinners. Even a tax collector. A very loathsome kind of sinner.

    Christians that work as clerks are not committing any kind of sin by doing their secular job. This would be the same thing when they give a “marriage license” to a couple of adulterers.

    It is the trustworthy Churches and authentic Christian denominations that need to protect themselves from being invaded by gay activists. That is going to be easier than they think. The First Amendment is everything positive to protect Christians from LGBT activism, as it is the hammer that the anti-Christ fanatics use it as.

    Christians should just give the homosexuals their license, go somewhere quiet and pray for understanding and be done with it.

    It’s time to move on and stay on the narrow path at the same time.

  • Argie

    Strange — as much as I disagree with you, I also agree with you! If that makes any sense. I’m not the believer you are, but I admire the sensible interpretation you have of your faith. I remember learning as a young woman to be in the world but not of the world. Sounds like you figured it out somewhat! 😉

  • Argie

    I work in a job where I am frequently required to work on Sunday. If I had a strong religious objection to that requirement, I would be told that, although my views were understood, I couldn’t fulfill the requirements for employment. I would be let go. Simple as that. I see no difference.

  • Argie

    And what would happen to the good married folk of Texas, or any other state, if they choose to remove the ‘burden’ of marriage from the civil arena and place it within the religious arena? Would they not file them civilly at all? Merely make them religious rites? The separation of church and state would preclude letting them stand as legal documents, would it not, since even marriages performed in the church have to be registered with the state. Would that not preclude all such marriages from falling under the rubric of federal recognition for next of kin inheritance through social security spousal benefits, military dependency benefits, federal spousal tax filings, etc? Seems they would then end up being little more than co-habitators.

    No, the should not I mentioned earlier still stands for me. Perhaps you can illustrate how these things are to be overcome?

  • Shawnie5

    Didn’t you read the link? There would only be one marriage certificate for everyone. If a couple chooses to have a religious wedding then the minister who performs it can sign it and the couple can then file it. If they choose not to have a religious wedding (or have a ceremony with any person of their choice “officiating,” then they can simply fill it out themselves and have it filed in the state records. Once it’s filed, it’s a done deal as far as tax, inheritance, spousal benefits and everything else is concerned. The only difference between that and what currently exists is that nobody has to sign off on it who doesn’t wish to–which probably removes some of the fun for certain people but I’m sure they’d get over it in time.

    Really, the only justification for marriage “licensing” by the state disappeared once miscegenation prohibitions and blood test requirements were dropped. It’s completely unnecessary and would never be missed.

  • Greg1

    A person’s Faith is not a compartmentalized thing, but rather a holistic one. Christians do not go to their churches on Sundays, and then go out and act like a secular person the rest of the week. The Founders understood this when they they established the Bill of Rights. You are allowed to live your Faith freely in this Land. What did Jesus say? “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Mat 10:33). And to “marry” gay people would be freely participating in their sin, a type of denial of Christ. In the early Church, any Christian who burned incense to Caesar was excommunicated. It sounds like a simple thing to do, which was deemed compulsory by the State. Once a year you burn incense to the ruler of the land, then the rest of the year you could practice your faith. But thousands Christians went to their death as they knew this was to place Christ second in their lives. So, civil disobedience is fine. It is the thing these…

  • larry

    You keep dodging the issue. Why do ANY changes have to be made to the current system? You refuse to answer that because you know there is no legitimate purpose to do it. So many posts of avoidance on your part.

    Nothing needs to be changed. All one has to do is uphold the law.

  • “Really, the only justification for marriage “licensing” by the state disappeared once miscegenation prohibitions and blood test requirements were dropped. It’s completely unnecessary and would never be missed.”

    Except by any government authority which may need for proof of marriage outside of one’s state. Immigration for example. Its telling that you have to advocate for destroying and rebuilding an entire system just to pander to clerks who want to discriminate in their positions.

    Nobody has to change anything and there is no compelling reason for such elaborate proposals. It is far easier to just uphold the law than to change it fit the needs of people whose interests are entirely lacking in merit.

  • Shawnie5

    Why do any changes need to be made? Duh, maybe because the people of the state might like to have them? Pretty much the reason why any law gets passed or changed.

    Larry, you’re revealing more about your personality here than you ever have before. You’re being quite entertaining.

  • Shawnie5

    Larry, you seriously need to learn to read. Nothing is being destroyed or rebuilt. Marriage continues to be marriage. It’s the paper FORM used to record it that changes. The paper FORM goes into the same database and provides all the proof of marriage that anyone requires. What part of that do you not understand?

  • Larry

    But there is no religious freedom issue here. Discrimination in a public post is not free exercise of religion. So the measures proposed do not meet a legitimate interest here.

    The sole purpose here is to absolve public officials from doing their duty. To sanction improper conduct by people who do not want to uphold the law and serve the entire public seeking to exercise their rights.

  • Ted

    Bible-cultists are rarely Christian. One cannot know the forest while running into trees.

  • Larry

    You are dodging the point. There is no necessity for ANY changes to the system. The people who want the changes do so in order to sanction behavior which has no purpose besides dragging one’s heels in granting marriage equality. There is no legitimate interests at stake here. Bigots want changes to accommodate a desire in not complying with a duty to serve the entire public. It’s not an interest worthy of consideration.

    There is no religious freedom issue here. Any pretense that this is meant to help the public is nonsense.

  • Ted

    Shawnie seems to forget that “separate but equal” legal systems were ruled unconstitutional in 1954 (Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483).

  • Ted

    So, County Clerks issuing marriage licenses to gay couples are “participating in their sin” … ?

    I assume the “christians” promoting this notion would also agree that anyone who sells a gun to a murderer is participating in the murder, and should be prosecuted accordingly.

  • Shawnie5

    Ted seems to forget that this is not a separate but equal situation. It is a same and equal situation.

  • Shawnie5

    If they knowingly sell one to a murderer, certainly.

  • Shawnie5

    Preventing all potential for discrimination is certainly a legitimate interest.

    But your argument, wrong-headed as it is, brings up an interesting point…if discrimination is not a legitimate state interest then there is no legitimate reason to have marriage licenses at all, since they were originally introduced in order to prevent interracial marriages. Marriage, if truly a fundamental right, is not something a state has any business granting “permission” for at all.

    Goodness, Larry, who’da thought you’d be such a bigot? 😀

  • MarkE

    How has your life – your personal, day-to-day life, been changed by the “homosexual agenda”? Getting gay-married? Have to deny serve to someone who appears effeminate or “artistic”? Forced to listen to show tunes in the grocery store? What? Most gay and lesbian couples just want to live quiet peaceful lives like their straight neighbors. There’s no threat here. Contrary to popular belief, homosexuality (or bisexuality) is not contagious!

  • Shawnie5

    “There is no necessity for ANY changes to the system.” Says you, and who cares about that? The people of the state may say differently. None of your beeswax.

  • Ted’s Other Face

    Please do not pretend to speak for all Christians. And, please do not pretend to decide who is a “true” Christian. God is the judge, not you.

  • Larry’s Other Face

    You don’t get to define who a Christian is. People identify themselves in such a fashion. That runs the spectrum of ultra liberal affirming sects to fascist Christian Identity sects. Even those who add an extra book of scripture, the Mormons. They are all Christian whether you agree with ther beliefs or not. It takes a delusional fool to think their opinion has to be taken seriously as to which sects or people identifying themselves as Christan are “the real thing”.

  • Larry

    Untrue on that as well. But you were never one to let facts get in the way of a canned argument. Marriage licenses were created to deal with the troublesome nature of common law marriages when it came to interstate/international record keeping. The UK started the practice in the 14th Century.

    If there were legitimate interests served by such proposals, they would not have come fresh on the heels of a nationwide decision abolishing gay marriage bans. You would not be so quick to support them. Your “altruistic” nature is showing through here.

  • MarkE

    How many fundamentalist Christians serve as county clerks, alcohol control board members, or commercial health inspectors in Texas? What would prevent them from claiming a religious exemption from doing their work in issues divorce decrees, inspecting establishments for liquor licenses, or approving halal-based groceries? You can make all sorts of claims that the tasks of your job are offensive to you based on your religious freedom, but none of these require your consent or signal your approval of their activities. So, is it only the “ickiness” factor of same-gender marriages that so offends conservo-Christians? Or is this just the tip of the iceberg?

  • Larry

    Dismantling an entire civil marriage license structure to accommodate bigots who wanted to abuse their public position is unwarranted and unnecessary.

    Why bother when the sanest and least costly solution is to simply uphold the law. Bigots feel annoyed so they want to change the rules. SFW.

    So rather than implement a new system with probably discriminatory effects as to be a de facto gay marriage ban (which is the true purpose here), people can just do their jobs as intended.

  • Larry

    The problem with such arguments is the assumption that Christians are consistent and rational in their beliefs and behavior. Hypocrisy is a given. Scripture will be more likely interpreted to permit behavior against others than to bind the Christian to any given detrimental activity.

  • Shawnie5

    Another beer run to Wikipedia, Lare? Wikipedia is not your friend.

    Marriage licenses were instituted in the US for no such thing. The word “license” = permission. In other words, the state grants permission for the proposed union because there is no reason to disallow it. Why was it ever disallowed? Race. And more recently, gender. Neither of those grounds are legal now. Syphilis? Privacy got rid of that. Previous marriages? Easily checked in the state databases when ID is presented upon filing (which did not exist in the 14th century). So, what remains? Record purposes? No change at all — the license becomes a marriage certificate upon being returned and signed and filing. That, as certificate still gets filed as usual, only without the useless (and discriminatory) preliminary step.

    So what else have you got? This is so much fun!

  • Shawnie5

    Nothing would be dismantled. One portion of a marriage certificate, the portion in which the state purports to grant “permission” is dropped. It’s no more difficult to change the certificates in this manner than it is to change “bride and groom” to “spouse and spouse” (which should not even be necessary if SSM is really the same as traditional marriage).

    C’mon, Lare, what else have you got?

  • Shawnie5

    Nobody is interested in your bigoted generalizations about Christians, Larry.

  • ben in oakland`

    I’ve always found that in general, if you scratch the old antigay paint of a bigot, you’ll find a nice shiny new bigot underneath. However, I think this is a little different. Most bigots know they will receive instant negative feedback if they express their old bigotries loudly. So they don’t.

    They still believe that most of the civilized people in the US share their antigay bias, or more accurately, can’t believe that they don’t. So they do.

  • ben in oakland`

    To be fair, Larry…

    this applies to a certain class of so called Christian. Not all of them/.

  • ben in oakland`

    Well, now we have five times in two weeks.

    You’re going to make a believer out of me.

    Well, not really, but…..

  • ben in oakland`

    They don’t need to be lying at all. They just need to confuse their highly personal prejudices with sincere religious belief. anti gay religionists have been doing it for centuries.

    witness “the crime against nature, not to be named among Christians.”

  • Shawnie5

    Clerks don’t purport to grant permission for divorces — they simply file papers into state records. I’m sure I don’t know what problem a Christian would have with halal-based groceries (food is for the stomach, according to Paul). As for alcohol, it would be strange indeed for someone who is firmly against alcohol use would seek employment at an alcohol control board, so I think we need not worry about that.

  • ben in oakland`

    You are wrong about that, Shawnie.

    There is a certification that the couple marrying are not already married, not to closely related.

  • Shawnie5

    You can declare that just like you declare yourselves to be married. You think the state runs a genealogical check to make sure that you and your spouse are not related? Of course not. Therefore, they have no business granting or denying permission on that ground. It would be just like it is now — if consanguinity is later proven in court then the marriage may be annulled.

  • Shawnie5

    (cont.) And whether you have previously been married is easily checked in state databases when you present your ID at filing time, as I already noted before.

  • Larry

    “One portion of a marriage certificate, the portion in which the state purports to grant “permission” is dropped. ”

    Because clerks want to give their personal prejudice state sanction. The state outsourcing its duty to serve the public in favor of a less organized manner guaranteed to result in a confused mess when dealing with other states and the federal government. Which is precisely the point of the proposal.

    Make the entire state change from a fairly effective and efficient system, which works well with other states, federal authorities, and other nations to make bigots happy.

    Again, please tell me what is the purpose for such proposals? It certainly was not the ease of access to marriage rights. It was to throw a hissy fit in light of changes in the law. Nothing more. Your vehement support is clear proof of that.

  • Shawnie5

    “The state outsourcing its duty to serve the public in favor of a less organized manner guaranteed to result in a confused mess when dealing with other states and the federal government.”

    It is not “less organized” and there would be no mess. Marriages would be recorded EXACTLY as they are now.

    “Because clerks want to give their personal prejudice state sanction.” You’re not supposed to “give a crap” (to use your typically vulgar lingo) about people’s private opinions, remember? Your only concern is actual equality, remember? Ben was very verbose on this subject a day or two ago…I’m glad to see that he is acting more or less consistent with his claims but you of course are
    coming through exactly as expected.

    “Again, please tell me what is the purpose for such proposals?”
    As I already stated, the purpose is to remove an unnecessary source of conflict between religious liberty and rights to marry. Literacy issues, Lare?

  • Ben in oakland

    It’s indeed contagious if deep down underneath the heterosexual façade, there is a homosexual-hating-homosexual who’s deep, dark desires need to be buried at midnight at a crossroads with a stake from Martha Stewart In its heart.

  • Ben in oakland

    And as I understand it, most Clerk’s don’t grant permissions for marriage either, or for that matter, perform marriages. All they do is file the paperwork. So why is it different?

  • Shawnie5

    The clerk does indeed sign off on the authorization for the marriage. That is what “license” means.

  • Ben in oakland

    So basically, you admit that the clerk has nothing to do with the actual marriage, but just signing off on the authorization. Your getting even farther from this imaginary participation.

  • Shawnie5

    The clerk gives the “authorization” for the marriage. I would not want my signature “authorizing” any overtly immoral arrangement.

    The beauty of the Texas proposal is that nobody has to authorize or officiate anything. It is totally do-it-yourself, the way it always should have been.

  • Rich Jones

    Or perhaps the gay trolls that prowl religious websites posting anti religious comments, scapegoating christians for all the vilification they have sufferred in the past.

  • Rich Jones

    Great post Dominic

  • Rich Jones

    “The only topic discussed on a forum on religion”.it may seem that way to a gay troll. Funny how 95 per cent of the posts on this thread are by gay trolls.

  • Billysees

    Be Brave,
    ” Christians should just give the homosexuals their license, go somewhere quiet and pray for understanding and be done with it.

    It’s time to move on and stay on the narrow path at the same time. ”

    Very sensible advice for any and all believers.

  • Pingback: Asociación para la Defensa de la Libertad Religiosa » Titulares Internacionales de Libertad Religiosa del 13 de Julio de 2015()

  • Pingback: Kentucky clerk Kim Davis isn't being held to a double-standard - Corner of Church and State()