Some public officials in US states that legalized same-sex marriage in November have been refusing to marry same-sex couples but are claiming that personal bias is not the reason.
In December a county court judge in Washington state instructed colleagues that he would not be available for same-sex weddings following that state’s referendum on the issue, while two town clerks and notary-publics in Litchfield, Maine, have used a similar excuse.
According to an unnamed county worker who spoke to the Seattle Gay News, Thurston Country Superior Court judge Gary Tabor told court personnel that he would not be comfortable marrying gay or lesbian couples at a meeting on December 4, which was confirmed to the Seattle Gay News by Tabor’s assistant, Kristal Rowland.
The court’s administrator Marti Maxwell told the Seattle Gay News that she had been instructed by the court’s Presiding Judge H. Christopher Wickham that Tabor’s refusal was an ‘availability issue, nothing more’ but she couldn’t explain why Tabor was only unavailable to marry same-sex couples.
Meanwhile, a gay couple who sought to be married at a town office in Litchfield, Maine, say they were turned away by town clerks who would not notarize their marriage certificate despite issuing them one.
Rich Hirshmann, 56, and Richard Acker, 57, told the Portland Press Herald that they were shocked and hurt after being turned away by town clerks on Monday despite Maine voting to allow same-sex marriage in November.
It made me feel less than human,’ Hirschmann said, ‘Like our rights don't count.’
The town clerk’s office issued the couple a marriage license but no one in the office was willing to notarize it.
The couple say that a town clerk told them there were two notary-publics amongst the town clerks in the office that day but neither would be willing to marry them and instead gave them the details of two other notary-publics in the area who would be willing.
Litchfield town clerk and notary-public Doris Parlin told the Portland Press Herald that she didn’t realize the couple wanted to get married when they had been in the office - though her personal belief was that their relationship wasn’t what a marriage is.
Parlin told the paper that she wasn’t reluctant to perform same-sex marriages - she just didn’t like performing marriages at all because she had a soft voice.
‘It's not something we do very often,’ Parlin said. ‘I really don't like to marry people’
Another town clerk and notary-public Trudy Lamoreau told the paper that she had stopped performing marriages a year ago and had never married anyone during work hours.
‘It's nothing personal,’ Lamoreau said. ‘I just stopped doing weddings.’
Maine law requires all municipal clerks to issue marriage licenses to legally qualified couple and those who refuse could potentially face a $1,000 fine and six months in prison. However couples then still need to find a notary public willing to sign the certificate and it is not compulsory for them to do so.