Colo. County Official Has No Right To Post Religious Sign Attacking Marriage Equality At Government Office, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Says Elbert County Clerk Is Clearly Trying To Express Disapproval Of Same-Sex Couples

Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder must remove a poster with a biblical passage disparaging the marriages of same-sex couples from his government office, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
 
Schroeder’s office is responsible for issuing marriage licenses, and it’s clear that the clerk put up the poster to express disapproval of same-sex unions, the organization asserts.
 
The poster depicts an image of a bride and a groom accompanied by a verse from the first Book of Corinthians that reads, “…each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”
 
“Schroeder’s job is to issue marriage licenses to every legally qualified couple without bringing his moral disapproval into matters,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “If he’s unable to do that, he needs to resign.”
 
Although Schroeder claims that the sign merely celebrates marriage, an email sent to other county clerks in the state last year has surfaced in which Schroeder wrote, “My thought process is that they have to see the poster. And if they choose to violate God’s written Word, then that is on their head.”
 
Americans United’s letter says the poster represents numerous constitutional problems, including a violation of the First Amendment.
 
“By posting a religious display at the County Clerk’s office to condemn the marriages of same-sex couples – in a manner intended to be viewed by couples as they visit the office to obtain their marriage licenses – the County is violating the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as… the First Amendment,” the letter reads.
 
This action is part of Americans United’s new project, Protect Thy Neighbor, which seeks to stop religion-based discrimination against LGBT persons and others. Americans United has previously sent a memo to all 50 state attorneys general, and to many county clerks, reminding them that religious freedom does not give government officials the right to deny equal treatment to same-sex couples.
 
“Although he’s apparently more creative than Roy Moore and Kim Davis, the Elbert County Clerk is acting unlawfully all the same,” said AU Senior Litigation Counsel Gregory M. Lipper. “Just as the county clerk may not disparage interracial couples when they obtain their marriage licenses, he may not demean same-sex couples seeking the same government benefit.”
 
Elbert County residents who are seeking marriage licenses and object to the anti-gay poster may contact American United’s legal department, at legal@protectthyneighbor.org.
 
The letter asks for a response within 14 days. It was written by Lipper, AU Legal Director Richard B. Katskee and Legal Fellow John McGinnis.
 

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.