On Television: Who Is Harmed By Stark County Recorder Objecting To Gay Marriage Licenses?


I was on television last night and our topic of discussion was the Stark County (Dickinson) recorder, Kathy Schwab, who doesn’t want to issue gay marriage licenses.

I have been amazed by the blowback on social media against Schwab’s decision, particularly because nobody in Stark County is being denied a marriage license. Berg tried to make the point that Schwab is violating her oath of office to uphold the Constitution, but how can that be true when Schwab’s office is continuing to issue the marriage licenses?

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]That’s not an act of intolerance, as some have claimed, but rather a principled act of tolerance.[/mks_pullquote]

“What Schwab did is exactly what she should have done,” the Dickinson Press wrote in an editorial today. “She realized her beliefs could end up being an issue and took the proper, legal steps to make sure she wouldn’t interfere with federal law.”

Exactly. Here’s what section 14-03-19 of the North Dakota Century Code has to say about the matter (emphasis mine): “If a recorder, unless the board of county commissioners designates a different official, is satisfied that there is no legal impediment to the marriage and that the applicants have complied with the provisions of this chapter, then the recorder, or designated official, shall issue and sign a marriage license in duplicate and affix an official seal to both the original and the duplicate.”

In other words, county commissions are explicitly authorized by law to designate someone other than the recorder to issue marriage licenses. That’s what Schwab requested that Stark County do so that homosexuals could get marriage licenses in her county despite her personal moral objections.

That’s not an act of intolerance, as some have claimed, but rather a principled act of tolerance.

If Schwab’s actions were going to result in a delays or other inconveniences for homosexuals getting their licenses, or it of were going to create some great new expense for the taxpayers, then I would agree with the many who were calling for her to step down. But her actions are not doing those things.

For years those of us who support gay marriage have asked its opponents this question: Who is harmed when gays married? I would ask that same question of Schwab’s critics: Who is harmed by her actions?

The answer is nobody, so let’s move on.