Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Public officials should respect the law...

Regular readers of this site won't be surprised to learn where I stand on this issue. Public officials have a duty to abide by the laws of the land. My tax dollars as a gay man go to finance their salaries and therefore marriage commissioners must be willing to abide by our country's equal marriage laws.

I do think, where possible, such commissioners with strong religious beliefs should be able to pass along duties re: same-sex nuptials to other commissioners who don't share their feelings. Such a compromise wouldn't even need to be declared as long as the same-sex couple receives the public service they are seeking. But in remote areas where marriage commissioners are hard to come by and no alternatives are available, it's clear that those employed by the government to carry out these duties must live within the law. If they are unwilling, they should resign their posts. Period.

Orville Nichols's lawsuit will form an interesting test case on this issue. If previous rulings on the issue are any indication, he doesn't have much hope of succeeding.


Chrystal Ocean said...

Agree with you Matt.

ALW said...

I think another alternative is to grandfather the right o object. Let's say you became a commissioner 20 years ago, and at the time, your religious beliefs did not conflict with your duties as a commissioner. But since SSM became legal, it is now part of your job description - and a change that was imposed upon you. In any other profession, it would be arguable that this kind of change to one's job description could constitute an illegitimate unilateral change in terms.

So, I would propose this: any person who now wants to become a commissioner cannot object to performing SSM, because they were fully aware that it would be part of the job when they signed up. But people who became commissioners before SSM became the law should have the right to opt out (subject to the compromises you suggested. Although if I was a gay man, would I really want to be married by a commissioner that I knew objected to the very marriage over which he/she was presiding?!)