First Amendment protects RI, Minn. officials from violating their faith

Alliance Defending Freedom advises marriage license issuers about their constitutionally protected religious freedom
Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Attorney sound bite:  Kellie Fiedorek

WASHINGTON — Alliance Defending Freedom is advising officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Rhode Island and Minnesota that they do not have to violate their faith or conscience by personally issuing licenses to applicants who are of the same sex.

Two new legal memos issued Wednesday in Rhode Island and Minnesota advise officials that they can delegate responsibility for issuing the licenses to deputies or assistants who don’t have conscience-based objections to issuing the licenses to same-sex applicants.

“No American should have to choose between their conscience and their job in America,” said Litigation Counsel Kellie Fiedorek. “The First Amendment protects Americans from being coerced to give up their careers to maintain their religious freedom. Religious freedom is guaranteed to every American, including those issuing marriage licenses.”

Fiedorek explained that the government can respect the faith and conscience of officials while providing no impediment to carrying out the law.

In Rhode Island, for example, the memo states that, in light of the state’s new law “redefining marriage to include same-sex couples,” some county clerks “might believe that they face a serious dilemma: either resign their positions or violate their sincerely held religious or moral beliefs by being forced by state law to issue marriage licenses to relationships inconsistent with those beliefs.” The memo explains, however, that those officials can resolve this potential dilemma by appointing “a deputy clerk with full authority to perform all acts necessary to issue, administer, or process the marriage licenses of same-sex couples should a conflict arise.”

Both memos also explain that if the officials encounter resistance in their efforts to resolve the conflict, they can contact Alliance Defending Freedom for legal advice.

Alliance Defending Freedom has issued similar memos for clerks in Delaware, Maine, Maryland, and Washington.
  • Pronunciation guide: Fiedorek (Fih-DOHR’-eck)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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