When Amanda Abramovich, right, and Samantha Brookover went to to their county clerk’s office in West Virginia last year to get a marriage licence they hadn’t bargained on encountering abusive religious nutters.
Deputy Clerk Debbie Allen slammed the paperwork on the desk, said she was a Christian and called the couple an “abomination” in a rant that continued for several minutes.
When Brookover’s mother later called the county clerk’s office to report the encounter, she said County Clerk Jean Butcher told her she knew about the incident and believed the couple deserved the treatment they received.
What’s more, the next same-sex couple that sought a marriage licence, she allegedly said, “would get the same or worse” treatment.
Unsurprisingly, this idiotic response by officials to a couple who simply wanted to be treated with the respect to which all members of the public are undeniably entitled, became the subject of a court case.
And this week the US District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia ordered the Gilmer County clerk’s office to pay the couple $10,000 and issue an apology.
A week after the encounter last year, Allen, above, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that she didn’t call the couple an “abomination”. In fact, Allen lied:
I felt I talked nicely to them.
She did acknowledge that she told the couple what they were doing was wrong and God would judge them.
I just told them my opinion. I just felt lead to do that. I believe God was standing with me and that’s just my religious belief.
But in a news release on August 30, Gilmer County acknowledged that Brookover and Abramovich “were disrespected and disparaged by staff” because they were a same-sex couple.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Fairness West Virginia and the law firm Mayer Brown, sought damages for the emotional distress caused by Allen’s actions.
That was wrong. It is the policy of Gilmer County and the Gilmer County Clerk’s Office that all people seeking services and doing business with the County will be treated courteously and with respect regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In addition to paying the couple $10,000, the county also agreed to require all officials and employees of the county commission and county clerk’s office to participate in a training programme provided by Fairness West Virginia, an advocacy organisation dedicated to the fair and equal treatment of LGBT West Virginians.
The women said in a statement:
Consenting adults should never be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed when marrying the person they love. It will be a comfort to know that this behaviour will no longer be allowed in the Gilmer County Courthouse.
The women, who grew up in rural West Virginia, had applied for a marriage license once before, in October 2014, after West Virginia’s governor at the time, Earl Ray Tomblin (D), said he would stop defending the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
But Allen refused to issue the marriage license because neither had presented a driver’s licence listing an address in Gilmer County. Even after the couple’s landlord came with them to attest to their residency, Allen allegedly refused to listen.
Coincidentally I was in the Gibraltar registery office this morning filling in the paperwork for my wedding next Tuesday. The officials went one step further than being efficient. They were positively effusive and, once the documents were signed by the registrar I was hugged, kissed and showered with best wishes by the three people involved in the process.
Gibraltar legalised gay marriage in October 2016. The Civil Marriage Amendment Bill 2016 was passed in the Gibraltar Parliament with unanimous support from all 15 members present during the vote.
The bill requires that, in circumstances where a deputy registrar does not agree to officiate a same-sex marriage, an alternative registrar must be assigned to conduct the marriage.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn