Metro Weekly

West Virginia county clerks sued for harassing and mistreating lesbian couple

Deputy clerk, and her supervisor, claimed their religious beliefs against gay marriage justified their actions

Samantha Brookover (left) and Amanda Abramovich – Photo: Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

A county clerk in West Virginia is being sued for harassing and denigrating a same-sex couple that sought a marriage license from her. 

High school sweethearts Amanda Abramovich and Samantha Brookover went to the Gilmer County Clerk’s Office on Feb. 3, 2016, to obtain a marriage license. But Deputy Clerk Debbie Allen insulted and ranted at the couple, calling them an “abomination” to God.

Allen reportedly slammed down the license paperwork and told the couple that God would “deal” with them. She also cited her Christian beliefs opposing same-sex marriage, and was backed up by another clerk during her rant.

After the incident, Brookover’s mother called Jean Butcher, the County Clerk and Allen’s supervisor, to complain about Allen’s conduct. But Butcher told Brookover’s mother that she didn’t think her employees had done anything wrong, and that the couple deserved to be mistreated. She also vowed to treat future same-sex couples similarly if they sought a marriage license from her office.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Fairness West Virginia sued on behalf of the couple, arguing that the clerks’ actions violate the Constitution by singling out same-sex couples for discrimination under the guise of religion. 

In the official complaint, the groups wrote: “Although individuals certainly have the right to advocate for their personal religious beliefs as private citizens, the State — and employees acting as officials of the State — may not use religion to intimidate or harass a same-sex couple seeking a marriage license.”

Abramovich and Brookover fear that they will continue to face harassment from Gilmer County officials every time they are forced to interact with the office, such as when they pay their taxes or register to vote.

“Same-sex couples shouldn’t have to run a gauntlet of harassment, religious condemnation, and discrimination in order to realize their dreams of marriage,” Rev. Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United, said in a statement. “Government officials must apply the law fairly to everyone, regardless of religious beliefs. If these clerks are unable to fulfill their duties, they shouldn’t work in a government office.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com