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Maricopa County clerk transfers to avoid issuing same-sex marriage licenses

A clerk in the Maricopa County Superior Court clerk’s office has been transferred to a different position in the department after telling her superiors she could not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs.

The move came less than a week after a judge overturned Arizona’s ban on same sex marriage and Attorney General Tom Horne announced that he would not appeal that decision.

The unidentified clerk was transferred Monday morning.

“We did have one employee who issued licenses on Friday, but at some point on Monday said that she wasn’t comfortable doing that in the future because of her religious convictions,” said Aaron Nash, a spokesman for the Clerk’s Office.

The clerk’s superiors granted her wish to transfer to another position in the office where she would not be required to issue licenses.

Nash said there happened to be another position open at the time of the clerk’s request.

“If that request were to come in today, we would not be able to do the same thing for that person,” Nash said. “We just don’t have an opening.”

Nash said the clerk’s office attempts to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs, but he noted clerks have signed an oath that dictates they will perform their tasks without bias or discrimination.

“The clerk’s office issues marriage licenses,” he said. “Anybody who comes in to a clerk’s office for a license is going to get one, so we have to have staff who can provide the licenses.”

Nash said clerk offices in Maricopa and Pima counties are large enough that an employee can be transferred to another position, and someone else can assume the job of issuing marriage licenses.

Clerk offices in other Arizona counties don’t have as many employees, so workers handle marriage licenses and other tasks, and there may not be enough staffing to move someone who wants to be transferred, Nash said.

The Pima County Clerk’s Office told KTAR it has not had any employees ask to be transferred in order to avoid issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Earlier this week, the faith-based group Alliance Defending Freedom issued a letter to clerks in Arizona Superior Courts, informing them that they can legally refuse to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples despite a judge’s ruling that overturned Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage. The group contends state law allows a clerk to appoint a deputy to marry a same-sex couple instead.