Indiana Clerk: Processing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Violates Religious Rights

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Indiana Clerk: Processing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Violates Religious Rights

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A new lawsuit claims the former employee of the Harrison County Clerk's office had her First Amendment rights violated when she was fired for refusing to process same-sex marriage licenses.

An Indiana court clerk who was fired for refusing to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples has sued, alleging she was discriminated against because of her religious beliefs.

Linda Summers, a former Harrison County employee in the clerk’s office filed the lawsuit in federal court, alleging the decision to fire her violates her First Amendment rights. Summers wrote and hand-delivered a letter to Harrison County Clerk Sally Whitis, telling her that processing licenses for same-sex couples is against her sincerely held religious beliefs against same-sex marriage, according to the complaint.

Summers requested she not be required to process those applications.

Summers made her request after Whitis had sent a mass email to county clerk employees telling them they are required by state law to process applications for marriage licenses by same-sex couples even though it may be against their personal beliefs. Whitis sent the email last October and a few days after the U.S. Supreme Court denied petitions to hear same-sex marriage cases in five states, including Indiana.

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That decision allowed lower-court rulings legalizing same-sex marriage to stay in place before the Supreme Court eventually ruled in June that state-level same-sex marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution.

Summers is asking to be compensated for lost earnings and for the county to be ordered to examine or modify existing employment practices to account for religious objections like the one raised by Summers.

The Indiana lawsuit is the latest legal challenge from religious conservatives who argue that recognizing marriage equality violates their constitutional religious rights. A federal court in Kentucky is considering the case of a Rowan County clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing a religious objection.