Clerks resign to avoid issuing gay marriage licenses. Good.

Two Clerks Resigned to Avoid Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses. Good for Them!

Two Clerks Resigned to Avoid Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses. Good for Them!

Outward
Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
July 1 2015 9:48 AM

Two Clerks Resigned to Avoid Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses. Good for Them!

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Same-sex marriage supporters in San Francisco hold a banner while celebrating the U.S Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling that every state in America must grant marriage licenses to gay couples, at least two clerks tasked with issuing such licenses have resigned—one in Mississippi, one in Arkansas. Both will undoubtedly be chastised by the LGBTQ community for their blatant display of homophobia. But I think these clerks should be praised for their integrity. In other states, clerks are begging for a special right to discriminate against gays. At least these two had the courage to admit that their prejudice prevented them from honoring their oath of office.

The first clerk, Dana Guffey of Cleburne County, Arkansas, announced her resignation when she realized the court’s ruling would require her to fill out paperwork officially recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages. “It is definitely a moral conviction for me,” Guffey said:

I didn’t announce anything publicly or on social media or anything because I didn’t want my decision to be seen as hateful. I know some people will look at it like that, but this wasn’t easy. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly. And I do not hate anybody.
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The second clerk, Linda Barnette of Grenada County, Mississippi, resigned for a simmilar reason, stating:

The Supreme Court’s decision violates my core values as a Christian. My final authority is the Bible. I cannot in all good conscience issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples under my name because the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is contrary to God's plan and purpose for marriage and family.

In Mississippi, clerks are elected, and the Clarion-Ledger has this fantastic quote from Lue Harbin, one of Barnette’s former supporters:

I was kind of shocked, I don’t know her personally but I never thought she was that way. She’s given marriage licenses to people who have committed adultery and stolen and lied, and when their parents haven't approved. … It's just crazy the way she’s thinking. That’s her job and she's not there to judge people.

I understand Harbin’s disappointment—but I must disagree with her reproach. These clerks took an oath of office to serve the public in a position paid with taxpayer money. They now believe their religious beliefs prohibit them from keeping that oath. Unlike clerks in Florida (who canceled all courthouse weddings to avoid performing same-sex ceremonies) and North Carolina (who procured a special right to avoid marrying same-sex couples), these clerks acknowledge that their prejudice simply bars them from performing their (publicly funded) job. So they quit. That’s the honorable, upright thing to do. I hope more of their colleagues follow suit.

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Monday, July 13, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guests Ted Allen, of Queer Eye and Chopped fame, and marriage-equality campaigner extraordinaire Evan Wolfsonfor a queer kiki at an Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.