Now that capitalism and the United States Supreme Court have abandoned social opposition to marriage equality, anti-gay county clerks are turning to a new form of protest: resignation.
All three employees of the Decatur, Tennessee County Clerk Office have chosen to hand in their two-weeks’ notice rather than sign same-sex marriage licenses. Their last workday will be on July 14.
Currently, the Decatur County Clerk office is not issuing any same-sex marriage licenses due to its staff members’ religious beliefs.
After they quit, the employees will be out of a job for the first time in six to twenty-one years, but they’re not worried. “I honestly think God will provide for us,” said Gwen Pope, one of the soon-to-be-former clerks, showing the level of reasoned, realistic thinking we’ve come to expect from gay marriage opponents. Well, I hope she can get a job giving “religious freedom” speeches to other terrible people because God doesn’t provide for anybody in this economy.
The Decatur Three are not the first who chose to quit in a huff rather than honor the civil rights of others. In 2011, a town clerk in upstate New York did the same thing. Governor Andrew Cuomo commented, “When you enforce the laws of the state, you don’t get to pick and choose which laws. So if you can’t enforce the law, then you shouldn’t be in that position.”
In some instances, angry government homophobes have quit over the mere presence of gay rights symbols. In southern Australia, Copper Coast Council’s administrator Peter Harder quit from a $1 million contract after his council elected to fly a rainbow flag during a two-week festival in November. Harder’s wife, who supports his decision, teaches English and drama at a local high school. If drama clubs in Australia are anything like drama clubs in the United States, she might need to resign soon as well.
These resignations may come from a sense of self-preservation. Clerks who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses can resign or face lawsuits and, in some states, jail time. And as attractive as the idea of martyrdom may sound, not many homophobes have the courage to actually sacrifice their own freedom for their convictions. Generally, they prefer to sacrifice the freedom of others.
Unfortunately for these anti-gay clerks, the First Amendment does not exempt you from doing your job. But that hasn’t stopped many of them from trying! Town and county clerks in a few places (mostly in the south, obviously) are refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, citing their religious freedom to deprive others of their social freedom.
Alas, the law is not with them. “If it means that you simply cannot fulfill your duties because of your religious beliefs, what is required of you is that you can no longer hold that office,” Sam Marcosson, a constitutional law professor at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, told US News. “That applies to a judge, that applies to a senator, that applies to anyone who holds public office.”
That’s too bad. I was hoping I could convert to Judaism and get a job at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Easiest paycheck ever!
The work-shirking clerks of Decatur have received praise for their refusal to do their damn jobs, because this is small-town Tennessee and people are terrible. Scott King, a Decatur County resident, said, “These three ladies stood upon their beliefs and they stood upon their morals and no one can fault them. Too often we as Christians don’t do that. It’s time we followed the lead of what they showed us.”
The more cynical among you might roll your eyes at the idea of Christians failing to impose their beliefs on others, but I agree with King. These Decatur County clerks are absolutely doing the right thing, and I hope that all opponents of gay marriage will follow suit and hand in their letters of resignation.
If you oppose marriage equality and hold any position of governmental or legal authority, then please by all means quit your job. Seek employment in a field more in-tune with your personal religious beliefs. You could become a faith healer. You could work on the set of a TLC reality show. Or you could manage a Chick-Fil-A.
In fact, anyone whose religious beliefs require them to discriminate against others should join forces with gay marriage opponents and resign in solidarity. Pharmacists who refuse to fill out prescriptions for contraception: quit your jobs. Go stock the shelves at Hobby Lobby.
Once the Decatur County clerks are gone, same-sex couples in the region will presumably be able to obtain marriage licenses in accordance with their legal rights. The local government office will likely have to ensure that the former clerks’ replacements are comfortable with gay marriage. Let’s hope they hire a trio of adorable lesbians. It would be amazing and would probably increase productivity! As Bruce McCullough once said, “Lesbians are so great. They get so much done in a day.”
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