Arkansas County Clerk Resigns Over Marriage Equality

Arkansas County Clerk Resigns Over Marriage Equality

A county clerk in Arkansas is resigning effective Tuesday rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Associated Press reports.

Cleburne County Clerk Dana Guffey told the AP she met with Judge Jerry Holmes today and informed him she would resign because she had a moral objection to granting licenses for same-sex marriages.

“It is definitely a moral conviction for me,” she said. “I didn’t announce anything publicly or on social media or anything because I didn’t want my decision to be seen as hateful. I know some people will look at it like that, but this wasn’t easy. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly. And I do not hate anybody.”

Holmes has “called an emergency meeting of the Cleburne County Quorum Court for Tuesday to address the resignation and discuss interim options,” the AP reports. Guffey has held the elected position of county clerk for 24 years.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge Friday directed government offices in the state to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson made it clear Monday that he expects county clerks to follow the law. This is in contrast to neighboring Texas, where Attorney General Ken Paxton said county clerks and their staffs may opt out of licensing same-sex marriages if they have faith-based objections, although he allowed that it would be problematic if all the employees in a given county clerk’s office object to granting the licenses.

Cleburne County is located about 65 miles north of Little Rock. It is named for a Confederate general, Patrick Cleburne, who may have been gay, according to historians. In Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military, Randy Shilts wrote of “Cleburne’s intimate relationship” with an aide, Capt. Irving Ashby Buck, and said the Confederacy “appeared to have a celebrated gay general” in Cleburne. Shilts cited as evidence a Cleburne biographer’s statements that Buck “shared Cleburne’s labors during the day and his blankets at night” and that the two men had a “very strong” attachment.

The 19th-century biographer perhaps did not mean to imply that the relationship was romantic or sexual, but it’s worth noting that Cleburne never married. An Irish immigrant who became a successful lawyer in Arkansas before the Civil War, he was killed in action at the Battle of Franklin, Tenn., in 1864, at the age of 36.

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