Settlement reached in lawsuit against Gilmer County

Published: Aug. 30, 2017 at 12:41 PM EDT
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A settlement has been announced in a federal lawsuit against Gilmer County.

The case

Brookover v. Gilmer County

was a result of alleged harassment received by a same-sex couple when going to get their marriage license.

According to a news release by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Gilmer County Deputy Clerk Debbie Allen called Amanda Abramovich and Samantha Brookover an “abomination” to God and stated their marriage shouldn’t be legal.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the women by Mayer Brown LLP, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Fairness West Virginia, naming Allen, Gilmer County Clerk Jean Butcher and Gilmer County as the defendants. Americans United stated the defendants violated the U.S. Constitution by “treating same-sex couple differently from others in the name of religion.”

The settlement includes Gilmer County apologizing to Abramovich and Brookover and paying damages to them. It also includes the county issuing a public statement regarding the wrongdoing of the County Clerk’s office. The county has also promised to take steps to ensure their employees do not discriminate against anyone again.

In a statement, Abramovich and Brookover said, ““When we went to get our marriage license, this was the last thing we expected. We were presented with two options: accept this treatment and leave the possibility that other couples would have to endure this as well, or speak up for ourselves and hopefully stop it from continuing.”

“Consenting adults should never be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed when marrying the person they love,” they added. “It will be a comfort to know that this behavior will no longer be allowed in the Gilmer County Courthouse.”

“Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, and finding someone to love and to marry is a fundamental part of the American dream for many. One should not come at the expense of the other,” said Richard B. Katskee, legal director of Americans United “Religious freedom gives us all the right to believe, or not, as we see fit, but it does not give anyone the right to harm others.”