“Strongly held religious beliefs” do not justify discrimination

This is a very bad idea.

Legislation that would allow county clerks in Texas to decline to issue same-sex marriage licenses if it conflicts with their religious beliefs was tentatively approved Tuesday by the Texas Senate.

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, a Granbury Republican who authored the measure, said the Senate Bill 522 would allow clerks to recuse themselves from issuing a same-sex license and would instead assign their duties to other clerks, a judge or even a special clerk.

The vote was 21-10, mostly along party lines. A final vote is expected within a few days.

“This provides a way for clerks to exercise their profoundly held religious beliefs under the First Amendment, and at the same time protect the rights of couples who are coming in for a marriage license,” Birdwell said. “Right now, there is not an alternate mechanism for a clerk who is not willing to issue a license because of their sincerely held beliefs.”


Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, questioned who the bill was supposed to protect.

“My main concern here is that all the clerks and judges know about the law and are following the law,” Garcia said.

Birdwell responded: “Without this, we’re saying that if you have strongly held religious beliefs, you are not welcome in public office.”

There is so much wrong with what Sen. Birdwell is saying. Warren Jeffs has “strongly held religious beliefs”. Last I checked, no one was seeking to pass a bill to better accommodate those beliefs. Believing in something extra hard doesn’t make it good or just or worthy of respect. A Catholic county clerk with “strongly held religious beliefs” would by this logic want to be able to recuse themselves from issuing a license to anyone who was divorced or to couples that were cohabiting. There’s a perfectly reasonable alternative bill that would address the concern of the deeply religious county clerk without singling out any particular marriage license applicants.

And that’s really the crux of this. The reason for this bill is because some people still don’t approve of same sex marriage and want to be able to express that disapproval in a formal and sanctioned way. That in turn leads to things like desperate legal attempts to redefine “marriage” in a way that makes it something lesser for same sex couples. There’s no way to escape the animus that a bill like this expresses towards same sex couples, which is at the heart of the Obergefell decision. All but a handful of County Clerks were able to do this after that ruling was made, and those who objected initially have since complied with the law. If there is anyone who can’t comply with that law now, then maybe being a County Clerk isn’t the right job for them.

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2 Responses to “Strongly held religious beliefs” do not justify discrimination

  1. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Seems the Republicans want to out the RINOs at the courts in regards to same sex marriage. Couples cohabiting is not as bad as divorced with Catholics. But the Catholic Church has a much softer stance on divorce now, http://www.foryourmarriage.org/catholic-marriage/church-teachings/divorce/

    They are just giving their base bones, that is Republican politics it works for them.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    The clerks who were currently in office at the time the court legalized gay marriage have a slightly stronger argument to make, since the rules changed AFTER they took office, but the short answer is, if you are unable or unwilling to perform the job the county is paying you to do, you need to resign so someone who is able to do the job can step in.

    Government institutions need to serve all citizens, and treat all citizens equally. To do otherwise is unequal treatment under the law. Deeply held religious beliefs? Wait until a county clerk in Dearborn, MI refuses to serve a woman who is not properly covered in a burka or hijab. Heads will explode. (no pun intended)

    In a related matter, I thought this issue was taken care of when we removed the county clerk’s name from all marriage licenses. Isn’t this issue closed? Apparently not.

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