“I am opposed to gay marriages on religious grounds, and my conscience will not allow me to sign off on marriage certificates for gay couples. People should not have to violate their conscience to run or to serve.”
―Mayor Sharon Valentine-Thomas (R-PA, Pottstown)
Why do I have a song stuck in my head?
Just a couple fuckin’ more weeks to go! I wanna be Kim Davis! Nothin’ to do but be an asshole! I wanna be Kim Davis!
Evan Brandt, for The Times Herald:
Statements by Pottstown Mayor Sharon Thomas in the usually sleepy race for register of wills have once again put Montgomery County in the spotlight in Pennsylvania’s debate about same sex marriage.
Thomas, a Republican, told The Intelligencer newspaper that she will not personally issue any same sex marriage licenses if she wins the race against incumbent Democrat D. Bruce Hanes.
Instead, as in the now-famous case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who spent five days in jail after defying a court order to issue same-sex licenses, Thomas said she will seek court permission to allow the licenses to be issued by a subordinate.
“I am opposed to gay marriages on religious grounds, and my conscience will not allow me to sign off on marriage certificates for gay couples,” Thomas, an ordained minister who is serving her second nonconsecutive term as Pottstown’s mayor, told The Intelligencer. “People should not have to violate their conscience to run or to serve.”
Thomas said, “I am not an obstructionist and will not force my values on others.”
There is a joke about Republicans and the idea that government does not or cannot work; why would anybody hire the applicant who says that about a job? In the twenty-first century, however, we need not be surprised that the punch line becomes a real campaign plank. That is to say, it’s kind of a one-turn maze; the punch line exists because it is reliable enough. To the other, this is something of an escalation.
Domenick Scudera reflects on the obvious implications:
If Ms. Valentine-Thomas were to be elected, would she refuse other services to us? The office handles petitions for adoptions and probates wills. If we wanted to bring a child into our home, would her religious beliefs bar her from granting adoption? If my husband passed away (heaven forbid), would it be against her conscience to deal with his estate? In a moment of intense personal grief, will I discover that the person elected to probate my husband’s will finds our marriage objectionable and his will invalid?
When I place a vote, I expect my chosen candidate to do the work for all of the people in the county, not just those she finds personally acceptable. Ms. Valentine-Thomas wants “to serve with the same landmark accommodations afforded to Kim Davis in Kentucky,” she states. But the circumstances are different here. First, the expansion of the law to allow same-sex marriages occurred while Kim Davis was in office. Ms. Valentine-Thomas has not been elected yet. Why is she seeking a job that violates her personal beliefs? Kim Davis’ “accommodation” to authorize her deputies to issue licenses was granted after much legal wrangling and jail time. It is questionable whether the licenses issued from her office are valid. This is not a model we should emulate in Montgomery County.
The thing about religious supremacism is that it is supremacism. We might also consider that vague notion of how and why conservatives can’t tell the difference; or, as Scudera continues:
Some may say that I am hypocritical to support Mr. Hanes for defying the law while decrying Ms. Valentine-Thomas for refusing to follow the law. However, there is a significant difference in the actions of the two. Mr. Hanes wanted to do more for the citizens of the county, to open up the services of his office to everyone in the county equally. Ms. Valentine-Thomas seeks to limit the services she will provide, to restrict her work to serve those in the county that follow her personal belief system. Mr. Hanes is inclusive; Ms. Valentine-Thomas is not.
This is what conservatives fail to understand about the notion of conscience clause. This is what conservatives fail to understand about civil rights. This is what conservatives fail to understand when they compare Kim Davis to the Civil Rights luminaries of American history. This is what conservatives fail to understand when they pretend Christians are oppressed in these United States.
Image note: Mayor Sharon Valentine-Thomas (R-PA/Pottstown), in undated file photo from Digital First Media.
Brandt, Evan. “Candidate for Montgomery County register of wills won’t sign same-sex marriage docs”. The Times Herald. 15 October 2015.
Scudera, Domenick. “Vote for Sharon Valentine-Thomas and She Will Not Perform Her Duties”. The Huffington Post. 19 October 2015.