Some interesting news from Stark County (Dickinson) in western North Dakota. The county recorder there has religious objections to gay marriage and has asked the county commission to let someone else issue licenses to gay couples:
The discussion topic was brought up by Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning, who said recorder Kathy Schwab had recently made the request to share the responsibility with someone else for such matters.
“Ms. Schwab has personal, deep-seated beliefs that she says really interfere with her ability to do that kind of thing,” Henning said. “She’s asking that the board exercises authority to appoint a substitute official in instances of applications for marriage licenses for same-sex marriages.”
The county’s commission has now voted to allow their deputy recorder to issue the licenses. So, problem solved right?
This seems like a perfectly acceptable compromise to me. There really aren’t that many people requesting licenses for gay marriages statewide, and I can’t imagine there are a lot of county employees around the state who are going to decline to issue the licenses.
I suspect the reaction from some to a situation like this – the sort of people who think that cake bakers and photographers should face penalties if they decline to work for homosexual couples – should be that the recorder should lose her job.
But how does that serve our objectives of tolerance and acceptance, however silly or petty we might find this woman’s objections?
We can serve homosexual couples in our state with wedding licenses while simultaneously respecting the religious beliefs of those officials charged with issuing said licenses, so why not do it?
Of course, we could also just get the state out of the business of licensing marriage altogether.
UPDATE: I’m getting a lot of blowback from people pointing out that Schwab is an elected official and ought to do her job. I’m not sure I find this a convincing argument. This is a very small part of her job, and it can be easily assigned to a deputy official at no meaningful expense to the taxpayers. If this were some major inconvenience, some situation where it was going to cost the taxpayers significantly, I might feel differently.
But it isn’t. I’m not sure why this would be different than, say, a Muslim recorder asking for extra breaks during the course of a work day for prayer. If we can accommodate that sort of thing, we should.
If the voters decide they have a problem with Schwab’s decision here they can vote her out of office.
She was last elected in 2014 with 75 percent of the vote.