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National group pushes county recorders to defy same-sex marriage ruling
An Arizona-based Christian nonprofit is offering free legal defense to any of Iowa’s 99 county recorders who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a legal advocacy group founded in 1994 by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and the late Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, sent an e-mail to each of Iowa’s county recorders asking them to tell their staff that they “shall not be required to issue or process a marriage license, or to perform, assist or participate in such procedures, against that individual’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
The e-mail, which was sent out in conjunction with the Iowa Family Policy Center, says Iowa law protects citizens from being forced to “violate his or her conscience.”
The ADF then offers to “provide free legal review and defense” for any county recorder that adopts a “conscious clause” and is challenged “on the basis of its content.”
“Government employees who believe in marriage as the union of one man and one woman should not be penalized for abiding by their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Doug Napier.
The e-mail comes on the heals of a petition drive pushed by Republican state Sen. Merlin Bartz asking opponents of same-sex marriage to collect signatures and deliver them to county recorders demanding that they ignore court’s decision and deny marriage licenses to couples of the same gender. Bartz has since had an ethics complaint filed against him saying he is trying to pressure local elected officials to break the law.
Attorney General Tom Miller has repeatedly warned county recorders that they do not have the authority to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and “recorders do not have discretion or power to ignore the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling,” Miller said.
The court’s ruling goes into effect Monday.
Iowa law says that an elected official can be removed from office for refusal to perform duties of the office or for willful or habitual neglect.
The ADF promotes itself as a response to the American Civil Liberties Union. In its 2007 fiscal year, it spent nearly $30 million, according to Guidestar, with the goal of protecting what it regards as the place of Christianity in public life. The group has taken on cases involving embryonic stem cell research, religious displays on public grounds, the Boy Scouts of America’s policy barring gay scout leaders and efforts to stop the husband of Terri Schiavo from disconnected from her life-sustaining feeding tube.