Nobody appears to have picked up on this story yet, so you're stuck with my take on it. Just so you're warned, some ranting is included further down.
As most here know, voters in the state of Maryland recently voted to reaffirm a marriage equality bill passed this spring by the state legislature and signed by Governor O'Malley. The vote in favor, which took place because the usual subjects insisted upon placing the legislation on the ballot for a "citizens' veto" was somewhat close, but we won by 52% to 48%. This is, of course, a demonstration of why civil rights really should NEVER (thanks to all who pointed out the missing word) be subjected to the "will of the majority." But this year for the first time ever, all three states with marriage equality on their ballots voted to uphold or reinstate previously passed legislation favoring marriage equality, while Minnesotans disapproved a ballot measure seeking to insert hate into the state's Constitution.
As with all such victories, there's always a bit of mop-up to be done.
Follow me over the Great Orange Croissant and I'll give you some news plus a bit of personal opinion (which sounds far better than "rant," don't you agree?)
I came across this story on the LGBT news blog Towleroad.com blog but it originally appeared in yesterday's Washington Examiner. The Examiner is a free, DC-area local paper owned by arch-conservative Philip Anschutz. It's format is similar to the that of the San Francisco Examiner, which began its life as a Hearst-owned tabloid, was purchased by one local and converted into a freebie, then purchased by Anschutz's organization and then later on re-sold. As far as I can tell Anschutz seems to give the local editorial boards pretty much free reign in their coverage.
Saint Mary's County, MD is located about 60 miles southeast of DC, beyond Charles County. It's bounded by the Patuxent River, the Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay and Charles County and is sufficiently close to DC that at least some folks work in DC but live there. The marriage equality measure lost there by a vote of 44%-56%.
Joan Williams, clerk of the Saint Mary's County Circuit Court (I presume that state circuit courts coincide with county boundaries in Maryland), has decided, in her infinite wisdom, that any deputy clerk that does not wish to marry same-sex couples will have all of their marriage-related duties reassigned to others.
"There are some [deputy clerks] that have voiced some opposition to doing it -- [they have] religious feelings about it ... so it's basically my idea that they won't do any marriage at all," said Joan Williams, clerk of the St. Mary's County Circuit Court. "Some people are just very against same-sex marriages, and I have to respect their reasons and their decisions."I suppose that beats having the entire county administration refuse to comply with the law. At the same time however I see a rather significant disconnect:
I myself am a civil servant, though I work for a different entity than Ms Williams. I've been at my job for 36 years now. When I was hired it was impressed upon me that as a civil servant it was my duty to discharge my obligations without regard to my personal preferences and prejudices. I always presumed that anyone who works for any branch of government, from the smallest locality up to the highest level of the federal government, is under a similar obligation: to provide legally-authorized services to ALL members of the public, not just those members of whom they "approve."
I wonder how it would fare were some of her clerks to say that they wouldn't record the marriages of Catholic couples, of Jewish couples, of Hindu couples, of atheist couples, of couples one of whom was not a US citizen or who was from out of state, of couples one or both of whom had previously been divorced, of unattractive couples, of mixed-race couples. I know the response I'd get from my superiors on that score:
"Your job is to serve the public on an equal basis. If you don't wish to serve certain members of the public then perhaps you'd best find a different line of work. In fact we insist that you do so. Immediately."
I'm really not sure why any manager within any branch of government would want to grant leave to one of their subordinates to refuse to perform their job because, basically, they don't like the people they're tasked with serving. There, I've said it. That is my view on so-called "conscience clauses." They insert personal preference for equal service.
On another note, the same article goes on to observe that certain wedding photographers have claimed they don't want to handle gay or lesbian weddings because they "don't know how to pose" same-sex couples. Two things to consider here: At least they're being honest in admitting that, in effect, they don't know how to do their job. Additionally, it strikes me, as an amateur photographer, that if there's something I don't know how to do, then it's always a good idea to acquire a new skill.
End of rant.