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Can County Clerks Refuse Marriage Licenses to Gay Couples on Religious Grounds?

Updated on June 29, 2015

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision verifying that gay marriage is protected under the 14th Amendment, some more stubborn States and Counties are being encouraged, and in some cases actively refusing, to issue them based on the personal beliefs of the individual County Clerks and the States that employ them. This is adding fuel to what is one of the most controversial decisions, not to mention a source of heated debate in what has become a very heated argument. Though many openly question the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision and even call it an assault on religious freedoms, vowing protests and rebellion against the ruling, most seem to miss entirely the concept of the rule of law in all of this, and what would happen of everyone suddenly stopped obeying it.

"Liberty Enthroned" by Robert Aitken, US Supreme Court, Washington, DC, USA.
"Liberty Enthroned" by Robert Aitken, US Supreme Court, Washington, DC, USA. | Source

For those of you who happen to think your religious principles come first, here's a little history/government review course: There is a separation between Church and State in this country under the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of a national religion, which means no government office, state official, or employee may use their position to impose their personal beliefs on the public. The individual States are subservient to the laws and regulations of the Federal Government and the Constitution of the United States. Therefore, if the Supreme Court of the United States say gay marriage is legal, then it's legal, and every level and office of government, State, Federal, and County, must adhere to the same laws. You can't simply refuse to the follow the law for your own reasons; if everyone thought that way, there would be chaos, anarchy, no continuity of law or society at all.

Supreme Court of the United States ends marriage discrimination - Obergefell vs Hodges
Supreme Court of the United States ends marriage discrimination - Obergefell vs Hodges | Source

Some might be asking, "The States aren't complying with Federal immigration laws, so what's the difference if we refuse to hand out licenses to LGBT couples?"

The difference is, and many people will have ought with this, that the Federal Government isn't following its own immigration laws. In fact, there is no law that says they can refuse to deport illegal immigrants; it's a matter of policy, not law. Their policy is to let them pass, the law clearly states they have to leave. Gay marriage is now protected under the 14th Amendment, which means refusing to follow the law is a criminal offense. Any State or even a lowly clerk refusing to issue marriage licenses based on personal religious or moral beliefs constitutes a violate of two articles of the U.S. Constitution, not to mention a gross abuse of power on the part of the state employee. How would you like it if someone refused to give you a driver's license because your hair is brown or your skin is black?

Others might respond, "We're not racists! We're conscientious objectors!"

But at what point does a conscientious objector become an oppressor? The LGBT community has asked for nothing but the same rights as every Citizen and that is what they have received. They've fought this battle for over 100 years and finally gotten the privilege denied to them by the conservative right. And while many are uncomfortable with the concept of homosexuality, to which I suggest a brief educational course on the subject, to not follow the law because of one's personal beliefs is wrong. We're Americans and we've committed to a way of life that appreciates tolerance. If a person cannot be tolerant of others they shouldn't live here.

Should individual States be allowed to refuse marriage licenses to LGBT couples?

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"Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual)." - Ayn Rand

The rainbow flag waving in the wind at San Francisco's Castro District San Francisco, California
The rainbow flag waving in the wind at San Francisco's Castro District San Francisco, California | Source

In other words, the Court has made its decision and for once no one is getting hurt because of it. Not a single person living has been harmed, except in their own heads, by the ruling. If you don't like the decision, tough luck, because only the Supreme Court can reverse their decision and that probably won't happen for another 100 years. My advice: Get over it! Dwelling on insignificant minutia just gives people headaches. Devote your energies instead to more important things, such as the dwindling economy, our dependency on foreign oil, the lack of jobs, or who you will be voting for in the next year.


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