Debbie Allen, of the Gilmer County clerk’s office in West Virginia, is at the centre of a row after she reportedly told a lesbian couple that their union was wrong in the eyes of God.
In reporting Allen’s outrageous behaviour under the heading “Debbie Allen: the Next Kim Davis?” Vada Magazine said that Samantha Brookover and Amanda Abramovich went to the Gilmore County Courthouse to register their wedding, where they were allegedly told by the deputy clerk that God would judge them.
We did not attack them. We did not yell at them. We were not aggressive with them. I felt I talked nicely to them. I just told them my opinion. I just felt led to do that. I believe God was standing with me and that’s just my religious belief.
Brookover and Abramovich, above, claimed that Allen huffed, slammed down copies of their driving licences and proceeded to tell them that their marriage was wrong in God’s eyes and that no one in Gilmer County would ever marry them.
Brookover said they were:
Flabbergasted and hurt and angry like you wouldn’t believe.
The incident was reported to the county clerk who oversees Allen, Jean Butcher. She said:
They were issued the licence, and that was the main thing.
According to Pink News, Americans United – a group that advocates for separation of church and state – has warned the clerk she may have been violating the constitution by espousing her religious beliefs while serving in an official capacity.
In a letter to the clerk’s office, AU wrote:
We understand that Deputy County Clerk Debbie Allen recently attempted to discourage a same-sex couple from applying for a marriage licence by condemning the couple’s relationship while processing the application.
Ms Allen told the couple that their attempt to get married was wrong and that God would judge them.
When the mother of one of the applicants called County Clerk Jean Butcher to complain, Ms. Butcher defended the behavior of her staff and stated that she had similar religious views.
Not only was this conduct inhumane, but it flagrantly violated the couple’s constitutional rights. By chastising the couple and expressing religious disapproval of their relationship and attempt to marry, the County violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
In order to bring the County Clerk’s office into compliance with the Constitution, the office and its staff must refrain from conveying religious or anti-gay messages when processing marriage-license applications or performing other official functions … Just as County officials could not disparage the relationships of interracial or interfaith couples while processing their applications, County officials may not demean the relationships of same-sex couples.
Second, by telling applicants for a marriage licence that God disapproves of their union, the County is violating the Establishment Clause. Governmental entities may not communicate an ‘endorsement of religion’ …
The Establishment Clause violation here is especially serious because Ms Allen proselytized to a same-sex couple visiting a government office to obtain a government license that is required for the couple to get married.
Indeed, the Deputy Clerk has admitted that she sought to impose her own religious beliefs on the couple … Recently, a federal court ruled that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has no First Amendment right to interfere with citizens’ right to marry, despite her own religious opposition to marriage by same-sex couples; as a government official, Davis may not ‘openly adopt a policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expenses of others’.
Please bring the County Clerk’s office into compliance with the Constitution by ensuring that County officials do not disparage same-sex couples or direct religious messages to the public. We would appreciate a response to this letter within fourteen days.
The action is part of Americans United’s Protect Thy Neighbor project, which seeks to stop religion-based discrimination against LGBT persons and others.