Last August, Dylan Toften and Thomas Hurd went to go get their marriage license from the town clerk in Root, New York, but Laurel “Sherrie” Eriksen (perhaps hoping to become the next Kim Davis) refused to do her job.
She allegedly said she couldn’t grant them the license because she objected to their marriage for religious reasons… even though no one asked and no one cared. This was a government job; her opinions were irrelevant. She later claimed she denied them the license because they hadn’t made an appointment with her office. (See? Blame the technicality, not her Christianity bigotry.)
The town attorney Robert Subik later ran with the technicality excuse, saying that if the couple had made an appointment, another staffer could’ve handled their needs. (Though that still left open the question of why Erickson was allowed to be in a government job even though she refused to do the work.)
The men sued the city, saying Erickson’s refusal violated the state’s Marriage Equality Act, not to mention federal civil rights laws. (In the meantime, they obtained a license in a different city.)
Now the case has been settled in a way that will put a smile on the faces of decent people everywhere. The town of Root has agreed to pay the couple $25,000 and Erickson issued an apology for her faith-based hate.
Lambda Legal, which represented the couple, celebrated the victory:
As part of the settlement, the clerk for the Town of Root read a public statement at last night’s town meeting agreeing to abide by her responsibility to provide marriage licenses to all couples who are legally qualified and without exception, as well as apologizing to Mr. Toften and Mr. Hurd. In addition to the public statement, the settlement includes the payment of $25,000 to the couple and the recognition by the Town of Root that it is the town’s policy for its town clerk to provide marriage licenses to all couples, regardless of sex or sexual orientation.
“We are pleased to reach this settlement with the Town of Root which reaffirms its duty to treat all couples with the same dignity and respect under the law,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal. “No government official should be able to refuse to perform their duties because of a constituent’s identity, sex, or sexual orientation. The law recognizes the equal dignity of same-sex couples, and so too must every government official. We hope this serves as a reminder to government officials in every town — no matter its size — that marriage equality is the law of the land and that religious beliefs do not grant a license to discriminate.”
Here’s the statement Eriksen made at last week’s meeting:
Town of Root clerk apologizes tonight 8 months after denying a gay couple their marriage license. The town has also reached a cash settlement with the couple. Hear from them tonight only on @CBS6Albany #MarriageEquality #LoveIsLove pic.twitter.com/e39x399HRK
— Emily DeFeciani (@CBS6_Emily) April 11, 2019
“In my capacity as town clerk, it is my responsibility to provide marriage licenses to all couples, regardless of sex or sexual orientation, so long as they meet all applicable New York State legal requirements. As such, my office, and I personally, will issue marriage licenses to any couple, without exception, who is legally entitled to be issued one. On July 30th of last year, there was an unfortunate incident involving Mr. Thomas Hurd and Mr. Dylan Toften who came to my office seeking a marriage license. I am sorry for any harm or inconvenience my actions caused the couple.”
A little more groveling would’ve been nice, but okay. It’s a victory for civil rights and a well-deserved and humiliating loss for Jesus-inspired homophobia.