This action is necessary for two reasons: One, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley have deliberately confused the issue by asserting county clerks may have a “religious freedom” right to refuse to service to some couples and two, some clerks have in fact turned away same-sex couples.
Many of us had hoped that, in the wake of the high court’s ruling, recalcitrant state and local officials would do the mature thing, accept reality and move on. After some initial defiance, that appeared to be the case. In Alabama, probate judges who didn’t want to issue licenses to same-sex couples gave up after Americans United and its allies threatened further legal action.
It’s now obvious that some government officials will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality.
County clerks are already trying to get out of issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, despite the law now allowing it. It’s caused humiliation, unfair delays, and it’s just plain wrong. They’ve even called the police on peaceful gay/lesbian couples just asking for a marriage license, which the law says they’re completely entitled to now. It’s like they see us as criminals for daring to ask a government employee to actually do their job.
It’s not the place of a government official to judge a marriage application that is legal under the law. Their job is to carry out the law, not carry out their personal opinions. Their personal views of the marriages they service are utterly irrelevant in this context; they could inwardly disapprove of every single one and still do their job. Racist clerks still have to do their job or they get fired. It’s no different denying an interracial couple than a same sex couple- they’re both legal and the clerk is not entitled to refuse either of them government service due to personal belief or prejudice.
Discrimination is not a religious freedom in public places of business or government service. These are our shared public spaces that must be accessible equally by all citizens. People can, however, discriminate all day in their homes, churches, private property, etc if they wish.