|Could religious liberty laws allow clerks to verbally upbraid gays couples seeking marriage licenses?|
From The New Civil Rights Movement (NCRM) comes news of a lawsuit which poses questions the lgbtq community should ask about potential "religious liberty" laws. Would these laws also give marriage clerks the right to verbally upbraid gays and lesbians seeking licenses under the guise of "personally held religious beliefs?"
Amanda Abramovich and Samantha Brookover originally tried to marry in 2014, after their home state of West Virginia legalized same-sex marriage. At the time, the couple, high school sweethearts together now over six years, were denied a license in Gilmer County by a clerk who told them that they each needed an in-county driver's license in order to get a marriage license.
In February of 2016, seven months after the Obergefell decision that made same-sex marriage legal across the U.S., the couple applied for their marriage license a second time. According to a new lawsuit from Americans United, a religious freedom watchdog group, the couple was harassed over their marriage application.
County Deputy Clerk Debbie Allen allegedly harassed them for several minutes, calling their relationship an “abomination” and citing her religion as a reason for her objection to the couple. Another clerk allegedly joined in, calling the abuse Allen’s "religious right." Brookover’s mother called the office of County Clerk Jean Butcher to report the incident, but Butcher allegedly stood behind the actions of the deputy clerks.
"Allen launched into a tirade of harassment and disparagement. She slammed her paperwork down on her desk, screaming that the couple was an 'abomination' to God and that God would 'deal' with them," court documents claim. "Samantha was brought to tears.
According to The NCRM, Abramovich and Brookover received their license but will be suing with the help of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. No doubt if anti-lgbt organizations get hold of this case, they will attempt to spin it into one of free speech. Granted, I don't think that such an argument is plausible but obeying rule of plausibility has never been the religious right's strong suit.