You may have seen these headlines:
Entire County Clerk Office Resigns Over Same-Sex Marriage, Same-sex marriage leads Grenada Circuit Clerk to resign, Arkansas County Clerk Resigns So She Doesn’t Have To Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses, or similar stories.
A while back, I wrote a blog post presenting the hypothetical scenario we now see playing out, with one minor difference. I wrote:
Can employees who oppose gay marriage refuse to issue marriage licenses? Yes, they can. Again, they would lose their jobs, but no one can force them to complete the paperwork.
If believers say, “We oppose gay marriage,” yet they choose to prepare marriage licenses for gay couples, what kind of message does this send?
The message I hear is: I oppose gay marriage when it is convenient and safe for me to oppose gay marriage, but my moral conviction to oppose gay marriage crumbles when my paycheck is at stake. Therefore, my moral conviction isn’t as convincing as I say it is.
The minor difference is that the clerks are resigning. Granted, this is a form of opposition, and although I don’t necessarily share their convictions, I do respect their decision to do what they believe is the right thing to do. But one thing that really frustrates me is that this conflict isn’t allowed to reach its logical conclusion. In other words, I want to see clerks refuse to issue same-sex licenses and have their employment TERMINATED.
No, I don’t get my jollies seeing people lose their jobs. Let me explain.
There’s a higher purpose in all of this.
Making a personal decision to give up your job ≠ having your job taken away from you against your will.
The former doesn’t allow the natural consequences of the Supreme Court decision to unfold. There is no outcry, because there is no injustice when one, of his or her own volition, decides to resign. The former doesn’t beg any question, but the latter begs the question, “Should it be legal for a county clerk to lose his or her job for refusing to do something that violates his or her First Amendment rights?” Specifically,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
In my opinion, the free exercise of religion includes making decisions and choices that reflect one’s religion, including the refusal to participate in activities against which one morally objects. I haven’t taken the time to research the religion of each of the people in the articles above, but in two of the articles, a specific appeal to the authority of the Bible is mentioned.
I imagine (or hope, at least) that the LGBTQ community, having first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be denied their constitutional rights for so long, would disapprove of the termination of employment for county clerks who do not comply with the Supreme Court decision. As long as they can get a marriage license from a clerk without moral objections, isn’t that what really matters? Isn’t it possible to find a way to allow both the LGBTQ community AND county clerks to maintain their constitutional rights?
If county clerks keep quitting their jobs, we may never know.