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Marriage Equality

Missouri Bill Would Fire Clerks for Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Missouri Bill Would Fire Clerks for Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses


A Republican lawmaker has a plan to stop marriage equality in Missouri, by making it legal to fire clerks who issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Republican lawmakers in the Show Me State don't want gays and lesbians showing up for marriage licenses, even if the Supreme Court decides in favor of marriage equality.

KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo. reports a bill introduced in the State Senate would make it illegal for state workers to issue marriage licenses to any couple other than one that is "between a man and a woman."

Boone County Recorder Nora Dietzel has issued marriage licenses to straight couples since she was voted into the position in November 2014. But if Senate Bill 555 becomes law, she'd her lose her job and her retirement benefits if she were to issue a license to a same-sex couple.

Dietzel told KOMU she thinks this idea is "outlandish" and that her job requires her to follow the law, even if it is decided on the state, federal, or judicial level.

"Our personal opinion about same-sex marriage or whether or not that is right or wrong does not enter into it at all," said Dietzel.

Federal and state courts in Missouri struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage late in 2014, but those decisions are still being appealed.

"It certainly puts recorders in a bad position having to choose between doing what they feel their duty is and being attacked at a very personal level," Dietzel said.

Missouri's LGBT rights group PROMO opposes the bill. PROMO Senior Field Organizer Kyle Piccola told KOMU the bill unfairly targets those issuing licenses.

"I think putting the lives of people, their salaries, their jobs in danger on a personal belief is definitely an extreme way to legislate policy," Piccola said.

Piccola also said public opinion has shifted from when voters passed a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

"When that amendment was passed, it was more than 10 years ago, back in 2004," Piccola said. "Since then, popular opinion on this issue has shifted greatly."

The bill's sponsor, State Sen. Ed Emery (R) said the measure he introduced enforces the Missouri constitution and recorders must abide by state law.

"We need to make a clear statement by the legislature that acknowledges the facts of this relationship versus the politics of it," Emery said.

Emery also said it isn't up to the state or any government employee to define marriage.

"The state did not create marriage, it did not define marriage, it simply acknowledges marriage by our laws," Emery said.

However, Emery said it is up to the state to determine how the state should discipline those who violate the state law.

"We're going to help you do the right thing," Emery said. "We're going to put a penalty in here that says, if you choose to violate Missouri's statute and Missouri's constitution, then you are violating your oath and are subject to some sort of punishment."

The bill has yet to be heard on the Senate floor.

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