Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New York Clerk Refuses To Grant Marriage Licenses To Same-Sex Couples

     Today, Politico reported that an upstate New York county clerk, if approached by a same-sex couple for a marriage license, will not sign such a license because it violates her religious beliefs. We all knew that there was going to a situation like this sooner or later, especially given Senator Ball's insistence that individuals be allowed to exempt themselves based upon religious reasons from New York's new marriage equality law.
 "Barbara MacEwen, the town clerk in upstate Volney who is responsible for signing marriage licenses in the town, said she’s morally opposed to same-sex weddings and does not intend to affix her signature to any marriage documents for gay or lesbian couples.
“If there’s any possible way to not do it, legally, then yes, I would not want to put my name on any of those certificates or papers,” MacEwen told POLITICO. “That’s their life, they can do it, but I don’t feel I should be forced into something that’s against my morals and my God.”"
     Situations like this pop up all the time in States and jurisdictions that have approved marriage equality, and though I feel for Ms. MacEwen regarding her religious beliefs, a few things must be remembered when discussing civil marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

       First, same-sex couples are taxpaying citizens of her city, and thus cannot be legitimately be denied a public service just because she might "feel" uncomfortable with it - religiously or otherwise. That opens up a huge can of worms regarding other ethnic, sexual, or linguistic minorities that civil servants might have a problem with based upon "religious" grounds.

       Second, it is even more imperative that religious exemptions are not allowed to be extended to public servants such as Ms. MacEwen because of the nature of same-sex marriage. Many religious organizations eschew such marriages and thus the civil sector is the only area where same-sex couples know that they will be treated with equality and dignity. The civil arena has been specifically opened up to same-sex couples because of the relationship discrimination in the religious sphere of society. Thus, religious objections to same-sex marriage should and must fall to the wayside in the civil sector because of these limited options for same-sex couples.

        Third, in discussing this issue, we must take into account something I like to call the "doctrine of religious consistency".  Ms. MacEwen, as the one who grants civil marriage licenses, has many couples who come to her who have been previously divorced, of different religions, non-Christians, etc. According to a consistent application of her religion, all of these things are against her "morals and her God". Why then is she choosing to put her foot down when it comes to same-sex marriages? In order for me to buy her "religious" argument, she must show that she does this with everyone, not just with same-sex couples.

1 comment:

  1. First, this is exactly why those "exemptions" never should have been agreed to or allowed. Second, if she goes ahead with this, I hope the folks who employ her (the town of Volney?) will do everything in their power to relieve her of her duties (i.e., fire her). In my opinion, if she doesn't want to do her job, she should find another one. Thankfully, gays and lesbians will be able to count on many other such clerks who will gladly sign their marriage licenses even if she's allowed to keep her job.


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