An employee in the Harrison County, Indiana clerk’s office has filed a lawsuit after being fired for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The suit was filed in federal court, so it has nothing to do with the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act law passed a few months ago.
Linda Summers, a former clerk’s office employee in Harrison County, filed the lawsuit last week against the county and County Clerk Sally Whitis in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in New Albany. The suit, which is filed in federal court, is not an invocation of the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act or RFRA.
According to the complaint, Summers wrote and hand-delivered a letter to Whitis, telling her that processing licenses for gay couples is against her sincerely held religious beliefs against same-sex marriage, and asking that she not be required to do so.
Summers was fired on Dec. 9, shortly after she gave her letter to Whitis, who accused her of insubordination. She accused her former employer of unlawful employment practice and alleged that her termination is against the county policy of not discriminating against anyone based on “race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, military status, or any other classification under applicable law,” according to the complaint.
Louisville lawyer Richard Masters, who is representing Summers, said the lawsuit is “just a generic First Amendment free exercise case” and his client had the protected right to exercise her religious beliefs that go against same-sex marriage.
No she doesn’t, any more than she could refuse to give a license to an interracial or interreligious couple. Government employees do not get to pick and choose which constituents they are magnanimous enough to serve, regardless of their religious beliefs. And I don’t know why Summers told the newspaper that this is just a generic free exercise clause case. It’s not. It’s based entirely on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination on the basis of religion.
So yes, she is making the argument that since her religious beliefs demand that she discriminate against others, if she is not allowed to do so she is being discriminated against on the basis of religion. This is, of course, nonsense. Never has an individual person, much less a government employee, been granted an exemption from anti-discrimination law on the grounds of their religious beliefs because to do so would make such laws moot. Anyone can claim a religious basis for engaging in any form of discrimination and it is not discrimination against them not to allow them such an exception.
You can read the complaint here.