Amanda Abramovich and Samantha Brookover had planned to apply for a marriage license in West Virginia in February 2016, but were instead subjected to a homophobic rant by Gilmer County Deputy Clerk Debbie Allen who allegedly called the couple an “abomination,” The Associated Press reported.
As Allen processed the lesbian couple’s marriage license, she added that God would “deal” with them, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
She also informed the couple that she was a Christian and called the couple an “abomination” in a shocking rant that lasted several minutes.
Another clerk allegedly joined in and said Allen had a “religious right” to tell the couple off, according to the complaint.
The couple, high school sweethearts, took legal action against Gilmer County and received a settlement today, which included an apology and $10,000 in damages. They will issue a public statement regarding the wrongdoing by the County Clerk’s office.
“When we went to get our marriage license, this was the last thing we expected,” said the couple.
“We were presented with two options: accept this treatment and leave the possibility that other couples would have to endure this as well, or speak up for ourselves and hopefully stop it from continuing.”
“Consenting adults should never be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed when marrying the person they love. It will be a comfort to know that this behavior will no longer be allowed in the Gilmer County Courthouse.”
Richard B. Katskee, legal director of Americans United said: “We’re glad Gilmer County recognizes that the clerk’s actions toward Amanda and Samantha were wrong, and that county officials are taking steps to ensure that all who do business with Gilmer County are treated equally and with respect.”
“We wish that Amanda and Samantha hadn’t suffered mistreatment and harassment on their wedding day, and we hope that they can take comfort in knowing that their brave actions to right this wrong should prevent future couples from experiencing what they went through.”
Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, said: “The tenets of fairness and equality benefit everyone. This favourable settlement not only rights a wrong, but also creates a path forward that will allow the County Clerk’s Office to rise to fairness through a training program designed to eliminate prejudice and discrimination.”
Katskee added: “Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, and finding someone to love and to marry is a fundamental part of the American dream for many. One should not come at the expense of the other. Religious freedom gives us all the right to believe, or not, as we see fit, but it does not give anyone the right to harm others.”
In a statement, Gilmer County said:
On February 3, 2016, Samantha Brookover and Amanda Abramovich went to the Gilmer County courthouse to apply for a marriage license, which they were legally entitled to receive.
Although they received that marriage license, they were disrespected and disparaged by staff at the County Clerk’s Office because they are a same-sex couple.
That was wrong. It is the policy of Gilmer County and the Gilmer County Clerk’s Office that all people seeking services and doing business with the County will be treated courteously and with respect regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The County Commission and Clerk will take steps to ensure that their employees comply with this policy.
Gilmer County and the Gilmer County Clerk have agreed to resolve the lawsuit that Ms. Nrookover and Ms. Abramovich filed against them regarding the treatment received in applying for a marriage license.
The Clerk’s Office has apologized to Ms. Brookover and Ms. Abramovich for the way that they were treated, and the County has paid damages in recognition of the harms that they suffered.
The County has also agreed to require all officials and employees of the County Commission and County Clerk’s Office to take part in a training program provided by Fairness West Virginia to help ensure that County policy is followed and the mistreatment that Ms. Brookover and Ms. Abramovich received does not recur.
Allen previously denied calling the couple an “abomination,” however, telling the Charleston Gazette-Mail that she “felt I talked nicely to them.” She did acknowledge that she told Abramovich and Brookover that God would judge them.