West Virginia County Clerks Sued for Allegedly Harassing Same-Sex Couple Wanting a Marriage License


County Clerk Allegedly Called Their Relationship an 'Abomination to God'

Amanda Abramovich and Samantha Brookover originally tried to marry in 2014, after their home state of West Virginia legalized same-sex marriage. At the time, the couple, high school sweethearts together now over six years, were denied a license in Gilmer County by a clerk who told them that they each needed an in-county driver's license in order to get a marriage license.

In February of 2016, seven months after the Obergefell decision that made same-sex marriage legal across the U.S., the couple applied for their marriage license a second time. According to a new lawsuit from Americans United, a religious freedom watchdog group, the couple was harassed over their marriage application.

County Deputy Clerk Debbie Allen allegedly harassed them for several minutes, calling their relationship an “abomination” and citing her religion as a reason for her objection to the couple. Another clerk allegedly joined in, calling the abuse Allen’s "religious right." Brookover’s mother called the office of County Clerk Jean Butcher to report the incident, but Butcher allegedly stood behind the actions of the deputy clerks.

"Allen launched into a tirade of harassment and disparagement. She slammed her paperwork down on her desk, screaming that the couple was an 'abomination' to God and that God would 'deal' with them," court documents claim. "Samantha was brought to tears."

The clerk also allegedly told the couple that the county had stopped issuing marriage licenses after the Obergefell ruling. Issuing marriage licenses is still listed as a responsibility of the clerk’s office on the county’s website.  

Ambramovich and Brookover were given a marriage license and were married shortly after the incident.

Rev. Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United, commented on the case in a press release, saying, “Same-sex couples shouldn’t have to run a gauntlet of harassment, religious condemnation, and discrimination in order to realize their dreams of marriage.”

The lawsuit claims that the clerks violated the mandate set by the Obergefell case. According to the suit, they also violated the Establishment Clause, which prevents anyone acting as an agent of the government from enforcing their religious convictions onto constituents, and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. 

Butcher told a reporter from the Charleston Gazzette last year that her views were similar to Allen’s, and that the important thing was that the couple received their marriage license.

A brief call Monday resulted in no statement from Butcher, who was unaware of the lawsuit when contacted.

UPDATE: 4.18.2017 –

"It’s been an overwhelming experience this entire time, but we can survive," Brookover told NCRM Tuesday. "We just never want anyone else to be dehumanized because of who they love. Love will win."

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Image via Americans United