Last week a federal court overturned Montana’s ban on same-sex marriage and gay couples are now allowed to get married. But as in other states, some clerks think they should be excused from issuing licenses to them because of their religion. Unlike other states so far, they’re being allowed to refuse to serve the public.
Some employees in the Yellowstone County clerk’s office have objected to processing same-sex wedding licenses and as a result aren’t being asked to do so for the time being.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris overturned Montana’s gay-marriage ban effective immediately. Since then, one deputy clerk has expressed religious objections to granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples while three others have objected on moral grounds, Yellowstone County Clerk Kristie Lee Boelter said.
County Human Relations Director Dwight Vigness consulted with the county attorney’s office and decided to exempt the four from having to issue same-sex marriage licenses, Boelter told The Billings Gazette.
The decision was based on part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, she said, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on several factors, including religion.
A clerk rejects interracial marriage on religious grounds and refuses to issue licenses for it.
A clerk rejects interreligious marriage on religious and grounds and refuses to issue licenses for it.
A government agent thinks drinking alcohol is illegal and refuses to issue a business license to a restaurant or store that sells alcohol.
A government agent believes women should not work and refuses a business license to any woman applying for one.
In none of these cases would anyone seriously argue that they should be allowed to discriminate against the public on the basis of their religious beliefs. But when it comes to gay people, suddenly some are demanding that religion be a valid excuse to not do their jobs and to discriminate against people when they are required to uphold the laws — all the laws, not just the ones they approve of. This is exactly why sexual orientation and gender expression need to be added to the Civil Rights Act.