Clerk’s Conundrum: Mo. Official Says She Will Not Issue Marriage Licenses To Same-Sex Couples Yet Still Wants To Keep Her Job

From Wall of Separation:

The Religious Right loves a good sob story, and it seems to have found a great one courtesy of a Missouri courthouse clerk who fears she may soon be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

World Magazine, a publication affiliated with fundamentalist guru Marvin Olasky, recently detailed the story of Jennifer Schoenrock, a 56-year-old deputy clerk in Waynesville, Mo. Schoenrock is tailor-made for the Religious Right’s sympathy machine: Her husband is a disabled veteran, she has four (adult) kids, two grandchildren and is described as her family’s “breadwinner” with a salary of about $24,000.  

World Magazine tells us that Schoenrock is facing a moral crisis. In November, a federal judge overturned the Show Me State’s ban on gay marriage, and if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds that decision in June, Schoenrock could be asked at some point to issue a license to a same-sex couple. And if that ever happens, her answer will be no.

“I want to do the right thing,” she said.  

Schoenrock elaborated a bit, saying she has no problem with civil unions for same-sex couples. Marriage, on the other hand, is something different to her.

“‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea,’” she said, quoting Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Mark.

She added: “These [couples] are like my kids. I can’t do it.”

It seems a stretch at best to interpret consenting adults who wish to enter into marriage as “little ones,” but that doesn’t seem to bother Schoenrock.

She clearly identifies as a conservative Christian, but the more Schoenrock said to World Magazine, the more she called into question the idea that granting a marriage license to a gay couple would actually cause her to violate her religious conscience.

“What good is this going to do anyone else if you lose your job over it?” she asked herself. “How does this glorify God?”

The article offers no answer to either of those questions. Instead, it speculates that things will work out because there are other clerks in the office who will serve same-sex couples.

But that’s not an answer. In what other context would such overt discrimination be “accommodated”? What if a clerk doesn’t want to facilitate the marriage of an interracial couple or refuses to give a license to a Catholic who is marrying an atheist? (After all, 2 Corinthians 6:14 does warn, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?”)  

Schoenrock sees herself as a “conscientious objector.” She’s wrong. This is not like a Quaker being asked to serve in the army. This woman voluntarily took a job that requires her to grant marriage licenses to all legally qualified couples. She has now decided, on the basis of her personal faith, that some of those couples don’t qualify.

In other words, Schoenrock doesn’t want to do the job she is paid to perform. If she worked in a private business, maybe she could find a way to get away with that. But she doesn’t. Schoenrock works for the government, and the government is required to serve everyone without discrimination.

No one is forcing Schoenrock to be a clerk. She sought the job. If she is unwilling to perform all aspects of her job, it’s time for her to look for another line of work.

From Americans United's Wall of Separation blog.