Editor’s note: This post was written by Samantha Brookover and Amanda Abramovich of West Virginia, the two plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit Americans United and our allies filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. On their wedding day in February 2016, the high-school sweethearts were harassed and disparaged by a Gilmer County clerk who cited her religion-based opposition to marriage for same-sex couples. AU filed the lawsuit through our Protect Thy Neighbor project, which seeks to stop religion-based discrimination against LGBTQ people and others. Click here to learn more about the case, Brookover v. Gilmer County.
Our names our Samantha and Amanda. We met in high school and have been happily married for over a year now.
But our wedding day was anything but a happy occasion.
In 2014, after it became legal for same-sex couples to marry in West Virginia, we were thrilled to have the chance to declare our love to the world by getting married. We went to the Gilmer County courthouse in our home county for a marriage license. When we arrived, however, the deputy county clerk refused to process our application. We left the courthouse disappointed and still unmarried.
Sixteen months later – well after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld marriage equality – we went to the courthouse again for a marriage license. This time, we brought family members with us who were excited to take part in our special day.
When we arrived, the same clerk was on duty. When we asked her for a marriage license, she began shouting at us that we are “an abomination.” She yelled that our desire to marry was wrong and that she believed that God would “deal” with us in time. We asked her to stop, and she told us that she has a religious right to talk this way to us.
In the end, she processed our marriage application – but not before we were left shaking and in tears.
When we complained to the county clerk about this abusive behavior, she defended it and said that any future same-sex couples seeking to marry would receive the same treatment – or worse.
No government employee has the right to belittle anyone who seeks a marriage license, or, for that matter, any other governmental service. We will have to return to the courthouse for other public services in the future and are afraid that the clerk will once again subject us to harassment and religious condemnation. We shouldn’t have to live like that in our home town.
That’s why we’ve filed a lawsuit. We want to make sure that no other couple is treated the way we were. Instead of the happiest day of our lives, we will forever remember our wedding day as one filled with fear, tears and humiliation. This should never have happened to us.
We’re determined to make certain it never happens to anyone else.