Arizona clerks do not have to violate conscience

cakeWhile the vast majority of American do not oppose gay marriage, there are some who object to it on the basis of their faith.

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom have issued legal memos to advise North Carolina, Arizona, Idaho, and Nevada officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses that they do not have to issue certain licenses where doing so conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs.

The counsel is similar to that which ADF provided previously in legal memos for officials in Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The memos advise officials who have conscience-based objections to issuing certain marriage licenses that they can lawfully delegate responsibility for issuing those licenses to deputies or assistants who don’t have the same objections.

“No one in America should be forced to choose between following their conscience and serving their employer,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Kellie Fiedorek. “The First Amendment protects the right to basic freedoms, including the freedom to live and work according to one’s conscience. These freedoms are guaranteed to every American, including those issuing marriage licenses.”

The legal memos explain that the government can respect the faith and conscience of officials while providing no impediment to carrying out the law. As the memos state, clerks, recorders, and registers of deeds whose sincere religious or moral beliefs prevent them from issuing certain marriage licenses “have the ability to appoint a deputy to perform that task” under state law.

“This should resolve the situation and facilitate the interests all parties’ interests,” the memos explain, adding that if any clerks, recorders, or registers of deeds “encounter resistance to their efforts to resolve a conflict, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution ensures that neither state nor county officials may impede” their free exercise of religion.

In addition, the memos explain that respecting this freedom of conscience “is consistent with Title VII’s requirements that employers, including governmental employers, must reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs or practices of their employees. In other words, an employer must make reasonable adjustments to the work environment, or to the employee’s job requirements, to ensure that the employee’s ability to maintain his or her religious conscience remains unimpeded.”

Any officials who face legal difficulties or would like legal advice regarding their duties as they pertain to issuing marriage licenses can contact ADF free of charge at (800) 835-5233.

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