February 2016 Church & State - February 2015

Sign With Bible Passage Removed From Colo. County Office After AU Complaint

  AU admin

On the heels of a complaint from Americans United, a county clerk’s office in Colorado has removed a religious poster that critics said was intended to cast doubt on the validity of the marriages of same-sex couples.

Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroe­der put up the poster in 2014 after a federal appeals court ruling made marriage equality the law in Colorado and several other nearby states. It depicted an image of a bride and a groom accompanied by a verse from the first Book of Corinthians that read, “…each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”

Schroeder’s office is responsible for issuing marriage licenses in the county. Although Schroeder claimed that the sign merely celebrated marriage, an email he sent to other county clerks in the state in the summer of 2015 surfaced in which Schroeder wrote, “My thought process is that they [same-sex couples] have to see the poster. And if they choose to violate God’s written Word, then that is on their head.”

In a letter sent December 10, Americans United said the poster represented 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 read.

Not long after that, Schroeder told 7 News Denver, an ABC affiliate, that he had removed the offending poster after displaying it for 15 months.

“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 in a press statement. “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.”

This action is part of Americans United’s Protect Thy Neighbor project, which seeks to stop religion-based discrimination against LGBT persons and others. 

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