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Religious Tolerance logo

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage (aka gay
marriage) across the U.S. in its ruling of The Obergefell v. Hodges
case from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.

Part 52:
2015-JULY/AUGUST:
The "path forward" for gay marriage (Cont'd).
Judge in Ohio refuses to marry same-sex couple.
Clerk in Kentucky won't issue marriage licenses.
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We use the term "gay marriage."to represent the marriage of two persons of
the same sex. We prefer "Same-sex marriage," a more inclusive term that
includes spouses with a bisexual sexual orientation, but it would make this web
site harder to find because most search engines cannot handle synonyms.
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.
"LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2015-JUL-14: The path forward on what is variously called marriage equality, gay marriage, and same-sex marriage (Continued):

Jonathan Rauch, writing for the New York Daily News, discussed the beliefs of evangelical Christians. He said:

"Evangelicals stand alone in their strong opposition to gay marriage in particular, and to homosexuality more broadly. Most American Catholics support gay marriage. So do most mainline Protestants. Pope Francis, while not revising doctrine, is dramatically softening the church’s tone on homosexuality. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has done the same, helping to pass a breakthrough anti-discrimination law in Utah.

Evangelicals stand apart. Seventy percent of them oppose gay marriage. Theirs are the theology and culture that most fiercely resist bending what they regard as the Bible’s unambiguous and unalterable condemnation of homosexuality." 1

In the past, U.S. religious conservatives have resisted other pro-equality movements in the U.S. Examples during the 20th century have been allowing profoundly deaf couples to marry, allowing women to vote, eliminating racial segregation in public schools, allowing abortion access, legalizing interracial marriage, and now legalizing gay marriage.

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U.S. map of Ohio 2015-JUL-05: A Christian Judge in Ohio refused to marry same-sex couple:

Toledo residents, Carolyn Wilson, 51, and her partner applied for and received a marriage license on JUL-05. Her partner is remaining anonymous. In Ohio, same-sex couples have a legal right to marry, but there are no laws protecting employment of members of the LGBT community. An employer can fire employees simply because they are gay or lesbian. She doesn't want to run the risk of losing her job.

Judge C. Allen McConnell is one of a panel of six judges who have been assigned to marry couples at the Toledo Municipal Court on a rotating basis. He was on duty that particular day, and was asked by the two women to solemnize their marriage. He refused, and arrange for another judge to perform the task instead.

Nick Komives, executive director of Equality Toledo, a pro-marriage equality group, demanded that McConnell apologize for his refusal to marry the couple, and to "step down" if refuses to conduct gay marriages in the future. Komives said:

"They didn’t deserve to be humiliated. They didn’t deserve to be inconvenienced. That’s just wrong, and we won’t tolerate it. It is his duty to perform this ceremony, and if he’s not willing to perform his duties, he needs to step down." 2

Judge McConnell later apologized to the women, saying that his "personal and Christian beliefs" required him to refuse to marry them. He found a substitute judge. Their marriage was delayed by about 45 minutes. Ms. Wilson said that the experience was "embarrassing ... and put a damper on the day."

Caleb Dalton, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal defense fund, said:

"The ability of the couple to find someone to solemnize their ceremony in 45 minutes illustrates that there is no substantial government interest in forcing this judge to violate his sincerely held beliefs. ..."

"[The United States has] ... over 200 years of experience of balancing religious beliefs with other important legal and social issues, and every American, whether they’re a public official or a private party, should be able to live and work according to their beliefs. Permitting a judge, a clerk, or any other official to refer a public service to another willing public servant doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights. And yet forcing people to participate in what they view as an inherently religious ceremony would trample on hundreds of years of Western civilization’s development of freedom and tolerance of diverse views." 2

Some would argue that a judge solemnizing a wedding in a courthouse is actually performing a civil ceremony.

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Judge McConnell, 71, who is Black and a Democrat, has championed the rights of fellow Blacks and the poor. He has been a leader in the Toledo branch of the NAACP, the Legal Aid Society, Toledo Greater Urban League, the Frederick Douglass Community Center, and the Flower Hospital Children’s Foundation. However, he appears to not be in favor of equal rights for the LGBT community.

As with many other similar conflicts across the U.S., the religious rights of judges and county clerks to enjoy the religious freedom of belief, assembly, and proselytizing are not involved. What is involved is the religious freedom to discriminate against, oppress, and denigrate the LGBT community, in violation of one of Jesus' most important commands to Christians: the Golden Rule.

The Ohio Supreme Court had set up a board to rule on cases of judicial ethics and conduct. Judge McConnell asked the board to excuse him from having to marry same-sex couples. He indicated that he was willing to continue marrying opposite-sex marriages.

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map showing rowan county2015-AUG-13: A county clerk in Kentucky refuses to issue marriage license:

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples. This included at least four same-sex couples. She did this for personal religious reasons, even though this meant that:

  • She was violating her oath of office in which she promised to obey the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment of the Constitution requires federal, state, and local governments to treat people equally. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on JUN-26 that equality includes the right of same-sex couples to marry.

  • She is refusing to follow the instructions of Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear who ordered her and the other 119 county clerks in Kentucky to comply with the High Court decision.

  • She also violated the Golden Rule, a major behavioral requirement for all Christians, as attributed to by Jesus Christ by the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the Bible. It requires her to treat others as she would wish to be treated herself.

  • She was also inconveniencing many opposite-sex couples for whom she has no objection to issuing licenses.

Her refusal could have had a simple solution. Any Kentucky couple can leave the county where they live and go to any other county in the state to obtain a marriage license. They can be married there or travel to any other county to be married. Rowan County is in north-east Kentucky as shown in the above image and shares a border with Lewis, Carter, Elliot, Morgan, Menifee, Bath and Fleming counties. The county is only 286 square miles in area. So seven other counties are only a dozen or so minutes drive away for any couples in Rowan County.

However, four same-sex couples who qualify to be married decided to file a lawsuit with the federal District Court instead. U.S. District Judge David Bunning granted them a temporary injunction against the Clerk Davis, ordering her to issue licenses to the couples. 3

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jonathan Rauch, "Evangelicals, the last gay-marriage holdouts," NY Daily News, 2015-JUL-06, at: http://www.nydailynews.com/
  2. Ken McIntyre, "Judge Who Declines to Do Same-Sex Marriages Says Civil Rights Struggle Inspired His Career, The Daily Signal, 2015-JUL-09, at: http://dailysignal.com/
  3. John Cheves, "Clerk turns away same-sex couple after federal judge orders her to issue marriage licenses," Lexington Herald-Leader, 2015-AUG-12, at: http://www.kentucky.com/

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How you may have arrived here:

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-JUL-12
Latest update: 2015-AUG-14
Author: B.A. Robinson
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