The duties of Catholic Clerks and Judges in Same Gender Marriage States


I hope that this is the right place for this question, as this is a question above civil, rather than religious, vocations. But it’s one that is really coming up in a major way, so I’m going to pose the question here now. I’ve asked it in another form before, but now that the issue is here and clearer, I’m reposing it.

My state is one of the ones in which a Federal judge, having clearly reached a decision before oral arguments were heard last Thursday, issued a ruling the following day striking down my state’s marriage law and holding that the state must now allow marriages between same gender couples. So here’s my questions.

  1. What are the obligations of those holding civil offices that are required to issue marriage licenses or perform civil marriages.

That is, more specifically:

A. Can a Catholic County Clerk continue to hold office, or must the clerk now resign rather than issue same gender licenses?

I’d note that this same issue would also exist for Orthodox, Mormon, Muslim and maybe some Jewish clerks, amongst others.

B… Can a Catholic judge whose office includes performing civil marriages continue to occupy that office for the same reason.

Maybe neither of these concerns are there, as the Church hasn’t said that these people can’t issue licenses, perform marriages, etc. where people are divorced. But I don’t know.

Next, and perhaps being cynical but also perhaps being realistic, while it’s the case that Catholic lawyers aren’t supposed to represent people in divorces, can they now represent same gender couples in divorces. We all know that its coming, and as we don’t recognize them as valid anyhow, can we here. I can actually see this becoming a real legal sub specialty.


I am not going to try to answer this question, because I believe this is too important to be thrown open to ignorant people on the internet. A person in this situation should submit this question to their local ordinary (Bishop) and follow his decision until such time as Rome might possibly issue a statement on this.


I agree that it would be wise for people in such positions to speak to a bishop is they are considering remaining in their position.

Many people of many faiths have left jobs/careers for reasons of faith and morality. This may appear different because it’s on a larger scale, or because the position seems more prestigious, but in the end, I think it’s the same moral issue, can I, in good faith, fulfill the requirements of this job.


There are many people who participate on this forum who can probably give a pretty good answer to these questions, I am not one of them though. I am glad you posed these ideas because they had never crossed my mind and I can see where this could be a real issue in some states. I hope some of the priests and others who can answer reply to this thread.


This is something for your conscience. It is your job to do your duty as a clerk of the government. If you can’t, then you will have to resign, unless they have someone else who can issue those licenses instead. It’s the same thing as those who don’t want to ring up contraceptives as cashiers in the pharmacy. Some stores allow another person to do it. If that is not the case then you have to do it. It’s not as if you are giving consent. It is simply your job.
BTW- Do you issue licenses to Catholic couples marrying outside the church or to Catholics who are previously married without an annulment. What about first cousins, which may be legal in your state but not in the church. It’s really not for you to pick and choose. You are already issuing licenses to people who con’t follow your religious beliefs.


The cases where a county clerk would know with certainty that a prospective straight couple was contracting marriage invalidly would be extremely rare.

Whereas gay or lesbian couples would be known to be certainly invalid.


While I would not presume to speak for the Church or the Local Bishop. I can say that if I were in that position I would have to resign. It is really sad that the world has become so corrupt and sinful that often a person can’t even go to work without compromising their faith.


Interesting replies, thanks. Like the one commenter above, I hope that maybe one of the Priests or apologists who stop in here might comment on it. Can I post this question in the Apologist section as well?

I don’t know the answer to this, and it may well be the case that in this area a person’s official commission relieves them of the moral problem noted, but I worry about it. I don’t need to, but I do anyhow as I’m a lawyer, and I fear what implications this has for people in this profession and those associated with them.

I also fear that this could have two really negative implications. The first may be that it may effectively drive sincere Catholics (as well as Orthodox and others) out of these particular occupations, making them an orthodox desert and also making firmly in the secular worldly camp, at least of the time being (I wonder about the long term demographic nature of this topic, given that the backers of this change seem to fit in a demographic class that’s basically putting themselves out of demographic business). If Catholics, Orthodox, and others were serious, and frankly quite intellectual, opinions cannot hold these jobs, it means that they’re only available for those who are willing to compromise their morality or those who hold very secular “go along” views.

Of course, again, maybe that isn’t what it means.

But if it does, it also means that there will be plenty of Catholics who simply go along, like we’ve gone along with divorce and everything else, which means that our ability to act as a moral force is diluted.



Question A was addressed in Canada. Such a person could hold the office, but could not participate in the immoral act. They would have to refuse to issue a marriage certificate. This went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that such was not permitted. You could still hold office, but as soon as the issue came up, you would likely have to choose between your conscience and what you know to be gravely sinful and your job. You would have to quit your job.


Was the decision that they not participate in the immoral act a formal opinion by a Bishop or the Church in some other fashion?


I can’t help but note that at some point, and I fear we’ve passed that point, the people being discriminated against are us. There may be freedom of religion in the United States, but as far as freedom of conscious goes, at some point you can no longer do your job with a clean conscience and remain a faithful Catholic.

Back to the Catholic Ghetto?


Yes. This is moral theology. Go ask any faithful Bishop or priest and he will say the same. Such a person is an accomplice to the other two persons’ sins and commits a grave sin and risks eternal damnation. We aren’t even allowed to attend same-sex “marriage” ceremonies let alone sign and issue a marriage licence for a couple.

I had to turn down a caseworker position at a Christian homeless shelter because they required I sign a statement of faith that was contrary to what the Church teaches. Instead I make minimum wage pouring coffee until another job posting I qualify for comes up. Such are the sacrifices we have to make in our times while the Church is persecuted.


In the case of clerks who issue license, would the same situation apply in the case of people known to be divorce and getting remarried? Its something that people have grown so used to, I’ll bet it hardly ever crosses anyone’s mind in that role (and of course maybe that doesn’t present the same problems).

I know, or at least have heard or read, that a Catholic judge can act as the official marrying a non Catholic couple, but I wonder if the same concern about divorce exists there as well? Judges may have a better ability to sidestep this issue.


Except in rare cases, a Clerk would not know that the marriage was invalid (there could be an annulment, the first marriage could have lacked proper form, etc.).


The federal judiciary has essentially declared that of itself it possesses power over the natural oorder.Even Roe v. Wade didn’t do that, but wrongly placed abortion within a ‘right to privacy’. So the authorities have gone from simply abetting crime to cutting crimes directly against the order willed by GGod.I hope there are enough citizens of good conscience at these levels who can, with the assistance of their parisjes, dioceses, or if non-Catholic, congregations and pastors, to mount effective resistance to this wanton and lawless offense against the commandment of God.


One of the extremely disillusioning things about being a lawyer is the realization you inevitably come to that many judges are just not all that.

Most of us go into the field holding judges in awe. Over time, you come to know some lawyers who get on the bench and begin to doubt, then some get appointed and the whole illusion is gone. You no longer think most of them, including Federal judges, the big brains, but instead you look at them as people who often didn’t really measure up to the first rank as lawyers, who had connections, or whatever. Some are really exceptions, are are brilliant. But most are probably only average, and some judges are really below average.

The other thing you learn over time is that a lot of the arguments and materials submitted to courts aren’t great either. And then you learn that you really don’t have to be all that smart to be a lawyer. Some materials are great. Some lawyers are massively intelligent, but the exceptions don’t prove the rule.

I haven’t read any of the briefs submitted in this debate, but it’s patently obvious to all, no matter what they may like to pretend, that this is really a massive example of judicial legislation. The Federal judiciary has determined that same gender marriage is going to be the rule and nobody wants to be the one bucking the trend. Like most trends jointed in progress, anyone joining in looks like a brave pioneer when in fact they’re just following the hoard. What I wonder is if anyone has taken a look at Natural Law at all. I doubt it.

If you go back into old statute books in the sections on marriage you will find that they read as if they can only apply to men and women, but don’t say that a marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s because marriage is a social institution that predates any written law by leagues. Marriage has always existed and its always been between men and women, and a person doesn’t need to address religion at all to discuss it in terms of the Natural Law. But no Federal judge is going to discuss the Natural Law and my guess is that a fair number of them don’t even know what the term “Natural Law” means. Any judge who doesn’t ought to get his hands rapped, but I’ll be that the judges sitting in the local courthouse don’t know the meaning.

If you look at the Natural Law, Natural Law marriage exists to protect society from the natural results of male/female relationships which are: 1) children; 2) disputes over whose man or woman that is; and 3) disputes over whose property is whose. Children are the major concern, as nobody wants society, the tribe, or whatever, to be burdened with children that their parents deny. None of these societal problems really exist as to same gender couples, no matter what the morality of those relationships may be, so no societal recognition of same gender couples needs to exist.

This is all self evident, but a person has to know: 1) there is a concept of Natural Law, 2) why societal marriages exist in the first place; and 3) that the founders of the Constitution not only did not have same gender couples in mind, but would have found that concept abhorrent. Most judges probably only know #3 and they’re perfectly prepared to ignore that.

A sad state of affairs.


It occurs to me that whatever the answer to my original questions here may be, that we’ve really reached the point where Catholics have to get over wanting to be part of the larger society, like we seem to have wanted to be since the 1960s.

We have to face it. Culturally, we’re back in the Catholic Ghetto. Well, so be it. We really are different and if we’re going to be Catholic, we’re going to have to take pride in that and wear it.


Not so in all states. I have been civilly married in two states. In the first state, I had to present my Birth Certificate and my ID so the clerk could run my name and verify I was free to legally marry. If I had been divorced, they’d know.

In the second state, as a divorced woman remarrying, I had to present the clerk with my Birth Certificate and ID as well as my first marriage certificate along with my final divorce decree.

There was also a section on both states forms for religious affiliation. Not to mention the clerk also sees the original marriage record and the divorce record which clearly state who officiated at the ceremony. You can tell if it was a judge, a JOP, a priest, a minister of some other faith, or some random guy who got certified to perform marriages via the internet.

This means that the Catholic clerks are well aware of who has been married and divorced and what the religion of the participants is. Since Protestants tend to only apply for annulment if they are marrying a Catholic or are converting, it’s easy to see at a glance who is marrying invalidly.

ETA: It’s possible this has changed for those two states. I was first married back in '94 and my second marriage was in '02. They may have removed some of the information they used to ask for from the forms.


They could have married an ex-Catholic, could have obtained annulment while previously engaged to a Catholic, etc.


You’re really reaching there. Sure, they could have. But the fact remains that clerks issue marriage licenses that are for invalid civil marriages between men and women every day and bat nary an eyelash. Ask them to do the same thing for a same sex couple and heads explode.

My real point is I would like some consistency here. Either an invalid and sinful marriage is something a catholic cannot condone, accept, or facilitate or it’s not. Either the Church should ask catholic clerks to not facilitate ALL forms of invalid marriage or let them do their jobs with the understanding they are simply following local law as part of a job function and are free to do so without guilt.

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