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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 28, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 52
Discrimination persists in Maryland
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Discrimination persists in Maryland

Marry Gay couples or don't marry anyone, court clerks told

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

When Gay and Lesbian couples begin to marry in Maryland on January 2, county clerks who object to marrying same-sex couples will cease to marry anyone, according to a report in the Washington Examiner.

When clerks at St. Mary's County Circuit Court told their supervisor, Joan Williams, that they had religious objections to marrying same-sex couples, she decided they should recuse themselves from marrying anyone and pass the duty on to other court clerks.

'There are some [clerks] that have voiced some opposition to doing it - [they have] religious feelings about it ... so it's basically my idea that they won't do any marriage at all,' Williams said. 'Some people are just very against same-sex marriages, and I have to respect their reasons and their decisions.'

St. Mary's is a rural county in southern Maryland, between Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. Like other Maryland counties, it will be legally required to begin marrying same-sex couples on January 2.

In suburban Montgomery County, northwest of the District of Columbia, circuit court officials are scheduled to perform six same-sex marriages that day, said clerk Loretta Knight.

WASHINGTON NO BETTER
Here in Washington state, a Thurston County Superior Court judge recently told court employees he would not marry same-sex couples (see story in last issue). While judges are not required to marry anyone, this state's county auditors are required to issue marriage licenses to all couples who apply.

David Ammon, spokesperson for the Washington Secretary of State's office, told SGN that officials who object to issuing licenses to Gay or Lesbian couples must furnish another official who will do so, so that no one is turned away because of sexual orientation.

John Zito, president of the Maryland Wedding Professionals Association, told the Washington Examiner that he spoke with a wedding photographer who 'didn't feel comfortable' taking same-sex couples' photos.

'I'm a photographer by trade myself, and I've done a couple of commitment ceremonies, and it is kind of awkward,' Zito said.

'When you have two men, I don't know how to pose them, and this person didn't know how to provide them the same services [as he would provide straight couples] if they didn't know how to pose them.'

WEDDING TOURS CANCELED
Discover Annapolis Tours announced recently that it would suspend its popular 'Wedding Tour' - in which wedding parties tour the city on an old-fashioned trolley - because the owner, Matt Grubbs, has religious objections to same-sex marriage.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Grubbs said in an e-mail to a prospective client that he was legally obligated either to accept Gay and Lesbian parties or to cancel the tours altogether.

By opting out of the wedding industry, rather than picking and choosing between clients, businesses can avoid discrimination complaints, according to Glendora Hughes, general counsel for the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. Hughes would not comment on any specific business' practices before a formal complaint has been filed and an opinion issued.

The St. Mary's County Circuit Court's decision - changing which clerks perform marriages - also appears to skirt discrimination charges, said Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, the group that spearheaded the campaign for marriage equality.

However, the photographer might be in legal trouble if he picks his clients based on their sexual orientation, Evans said.

'Would he opt out of [photographing] African Americans getting married because he can't do the lighting right?' she asked.

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