Same-Gender Couples Seeking Marriage Licenses Meet Resistance
By Sheryl Estrada
In a historic decision on June 26 the Supreme Court made same-gender marriage legal nationwide. However, on July 6 a judge refused to issue a marriage license to two women in Toledo, Ohio; and in Grandbury, Texas, a federal lawsuit had to be filed in order for a same-gender couple to make their marriage legal.
After having a commitment ceremony six years ago, Carolyn Wilson, 51, and her partner went to Toledo Municipal Court for a marriage license.
“You wait so long for this opportunity,” Wilson told The Blade. “Because we wanted to handle it civilly we didn’t think there would be any issue at all.”
Judge C. Allen McConnell, on duty to perform marriages, did not wed Wilson and her partner due to his religious beliefs.
His bailiff informed Wilson that he “didn’t do ‘these types of marriages,'” she said. “We assumed that was same-sex marriages.”
Wilson said she never spoke with McConnell. Almost an hour later, Judge William M. Connelly, Jr. married the couple.
On Wednesday, McConnell issued a statement about his refusal to perform the marriage:
On Monday, July 6, I declined to marry a non-traditional couple during my duties assignment. The declination was based upon my personal and Christian beliefs established over many years. I apologize to the couple for the delay they experienced and wish them the best. The court has implemented a process whereby same sex marriages will be accommodated. I will continue to perform traditional marriages during my duties assignment. I am also seeking an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court of Ohio at this time as to whether or not I can opt out of the rotation. Upon receipt of the advisory opinion from the Supreme Court, I will abide by its decision.
Ohio Supreme Court spokesman Bret Crow said McConnell’s request to “opt out of rotation” must go before a board, chosen by the court, which handles ethics and conduct matters involving judges.
However, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority with the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court’s four liberal Justices, clearly said, “The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them.”
The Blade also reports that Presiding Judge of Toledo Municipal Court Michelle Wagner approved a temporary modification on July 9 ensuring all marriages will be conducted in the courtroom. Connelly will conduct ceremonies in her absence.
Meanwhile, in Granbury, Texas, Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton, who have been together for 27 years, had been attempting to get a marriage license from the Hood County clerk’s office since June 29. County Clerk Katie Lang had refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples, citing religious opposition.
On July 6, Cato and Stapleton filed a federal lawsuit against Lang, which says the couple’s experience was “humiliating and degrading.” Shortly after the suit was filed, the office quickly issued Cato and Stapleton a marriage license.
The couple hasn’t withdrawn the lawsuit. An attorney said they seek an arrangement from Lang that her office will issue licenses to same-gender couples without delay and paying attorneys’ fees.
In Kentucky, The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis on behalf of two homosexual and two heterosexual couples. The couples were denied when they tried to get marriage licenses from her office.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Davis decided not to issue marriage licenses to any couple, same-gender or straight.
Davis said in particular that she would never issue a marriage license to a same-gender couple due to her religious beliefs.
“It’s a deep-rooted conviction; my conscience won’t allow me to do that,” she said. “It goes against everything I hold dear, everything sacred in my life.”
According to the Associated Press, “In the lawsuit, ACLU legal director William Sharp wrote that Davis’ religious conviction ‘is not a compelling, important or legitimate government interest.'”
About 60 Kentucky county clerks signed a letter to Governor Steve Beshear calling for a special legislative session. On July 9, Casey County Clerk Casey Davis met with Beshear seeking to stop an order instructing clerks and state agencies to comply with the Supreme Court decision.
Beshear then issued a statement ordering all state employees to honor the Supreme Court’s ruling:
This morning, I advised Mr. Davis that I respect his right to his own personal beliefs regarding same-sex marriages. However, when he was elected, he took a constitutional oath to uphold the United States Constitution. According to the United States Supreme Court, the Constitution now requires that governmental officials in Kentucky and elsewhere must recognize same-sex marriages as valid and allow them to take place.