DICKINSON, N.D. – Stark County commissioners voted on Tuesday to authorize the county's deputy recorder to issue marriage licenses after it was revealed that the county recorder felt uncomfortable granting them to same-sex couples.
The discussion topic was brought up by Stark County State's Attorney Tom Henning, who said Recorder Kathy Schwab had recently requested to share the responsibility with someone else for such matters.
"Ms. Schwab has personal, deep-seated beliefs that she says really interfere with her ability to do that kind of thing," Henning said. "She's asking that the board exercises authority to appoint a substitute official in instances of applications for marriage licenses for same-sex marriages."
Schwab declined to comment, insisting that all questions be forwarded to Henning.
The dilemma is similar to that of other counties across the nation that are having trouble accepting the recent Supreme Court ruling that declared same-sex marriage legal throughout the country.
According to a CBS News report, county clerks of courts in states such as Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky have refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, many citing religious beliefs that prohibit them from doing so. Some office workers have even resigned over the matter, according to the report. A few of those turned away have brought lawsuits against the respective county clerks.
Henning told The Press that North Dakota switched to having its county recorders in charge of issuing marriage licenses after county clerks of courts became tied to the state government.
As of Monday, the Stark County recorder's office said it was unaware of any same-sex marriage licenses having been requested since the June 26 Supreme Court ruling.
Henning told commissioners they legally have the power to appoint other county officials to the task. He said that, from reading the statute, he doesn't see any reason why the deputy recorder, Kim Kasian, can't be chosen.
When Commissioner Duane "Bucky" Wolf asked if same-sex couples who come for a marriage license while Kasian was out will be told to wait until she returned, Henning replied that it is likely how the process will work.
Commission Chairman Russ Hoff asked what would happen if Kasian has an issue with taking up the task. Henning said the question has already been addressed and cleared. Hoff noted the similarity of the situation to the others he'd seen on the news.
Commissioner Ken Zander agreed with other commissioners and said they had to do what was necessary to keep marriage licenses available for everyone.
"The law is the law," Zander said. "We don't make it, but we're subject to enforcing it."