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Cleburne County clerk will resign over same-sex marriage licenses

by Staff and wire reports | June 29, 2015 at 11:27 a.m. | Updated June 29, 2015 at 4:25 p.m.
Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, posted this message on Twitter Sunday suggesting a county clerk will resign over having to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

LITTLE ROCK — A county clerk in Arkansas plans to resign effective Tuesday because of a moral objection to issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Cleburne County Clerk Dana Guffey said Monday she has notified the county judge of her plans to resign. She says she has a moral objection to issuing the marriage licenses following Friday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriages nationwide. She said the decision to leave the post after 24 years was not made out of hate.

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, hinted at Guffey's decision Sunday, posting on Twitter shortly before 2 p.m. that he had "just been advised one Arkansas County Clerk will resign before issuing" the licenses to same-sex couples. He included the hashtag "#resist" with that message on the popular social media platform and followed it with a second post supporting the plan.

"County Clerks have rights-I stand with any elected official to refuse to comply with an unjust ruling that violates their religious beliefs," the tweet said.

Rapert didn't immediately reply to messages left seeking comment Monday morning.

Polk County Clerk Terri Harrison, who serves as the president of the Arkansas Association of County Clerks, said earlier Monday that she had not heard from any clerks who were considering leaving their posts over same-sex marriages, which became legal Friday after a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

"All I know is we've discussed this in previous county clerk meetings and no one ever told me they had to resign if they had to do that," she said.

ArkansasOnline reached out to county clerks across the state Monday morning and afternoon to see if any planned to resign.

Dallas County Clerk Susie Williams said she had considered stepping down after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage but has since opted against it.

“After a lot of praying and thinking about it, I’ve decided to stay,” Williams said. “I’m trying to stay where the lord wants me to stay.”

“I’m bound by law to do what the Supreme Court tells me to do.”

Harrison said that she believed all counties by Monday were issuing or were prepared to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

But one clerk reached by phone Monday, Randolph County Clerk Rhonda Blevins, said "I don't know" when asked by a reporter if same-sex marriage licenses were available there. Asked if she was the clerk who would resign over gay marriage licenses, Blevins said she has "not publicly said that, no."

Arkansas County Clerk Melissa Wood said Monday that Rapert's tweet was not referring to her office, which began offering same-sex licenses Friday morning and issued one that afternoon. She said several people had inquired after Rapert's tweet.

"Can I say with a capital 'N' and a capital 'O' and exclamation points that no, it's not us," she said.

Columbia County Clerk Sherry Bell said her office made the same-sex licenses available shortly after the ruling came down, adding she doubts any clerk would resign over the issue.

"I've got to do whatever the law says," she said. "Sure, people have their personal beliefs. But when it comes down the pike, you've got to take that aside. That comes with the territory."

Rapert made the same claim he did on Twitter in a Facebook post in which he also called the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling unconstitutional.

"I encourage all political leaders of Arkansas and leaders in the faith community to rally around County Clerks who choose to refuse to comply with an unjust ruling that violates religious freedom and states rights," he wrote. "I encourage all likeminded political leaders around the entire nation to do the same. We cannot sit idly by while 5 robed lawyers try to seize power from the states and the people."

Arkansas Online reporters Gavin Lesnick, Danielle Kloap and Sara Janak and news editors Lisa Burnett and Katie Doherty contributed to this story. Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.

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