Maryland County Clerks Reassigned Over Gay Marriage Objections

StmaryscountySome county clerks in Maryland would rather take a ride on Matt Grubbs' gay-free trolley than give same-sex couples marriage certificates. From the Washington Examiner:

When same-sex marriage becomes legal in Maryland next week, some employees in the St. Mary's County Circuit Court will stop performing marriages, passing the duty on to other employees.

"There are some [deputy clerks] that have voiced some opposition to doing it -- [they have] religious feelings about it ... so it's basically my idea that they won't do any marriage at all," said Joan Williams, clerk of the St. Mary's County Circuit Court. "Some people are just very against same-sex marriages, and I have to respect their reasons and their decisions."

Meanwhile, some photographers are uncomfortable over "how to pose" grooms or brides of the same sex. "I'm a photographer by trade myself, and I've done a couple of commitment ceremonies, and it is kind of awkward," said John Zito from the Maryland Wedding Professionals Association.

He went on, referring to a photographer he knows who won't work with gay or lesbian couples, "When you have two men, I don't know how to pose them, and this person [who won't perform gay marriages] didn't know how to provide them the same services [as he would provide straight couples] if they didn't know how to pose them." What a marvelous cop-out.

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  1. Although this is obviously horrendously bigoted BS, I'm sort of liking how the tables are turning. And now these bigots are the ones squirming. It always used to be that we would be the ones closeting ourselves or not be fully honest with who we are to avoid homophobia. Now it's these homophobes tripping over their own feet. Little do they know their behavior is going to come at a heavy price.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 27, 2012 12:11:20 PM

  2. Gotta comment on the wedding photog...

    Posed shots are tricky to shoot in a way that looks natural for any couple. Lots of traditional wedding photographers have a repertoire of stock poses. Those poses are built on traditional constructs for the roles of men and women.

    Looking at his Mr. Zito's portfolio for straight couples (thanks, Michael), it is not especially artistic, technically proficient, or graceful in its aesthetics. Especially damning is that he often chooses perspectives that do not show his clients at their best. He claims his site shows pictures from "a group of very seasoned professional wedding photographers" so it's hard to say whether Mr. Zito deserves all the blame. I venture to say most gay couples would not choose his work to begin with, nor would straight couples seeking artistic and emotionally vibrant images. His posing in the portfolio amounts to what an amateur would say when shooting a snapshot: "Lean against the wall and look at her." "Stand in front of the tree and smile." "Stand there and kiss." The moments look contrived, artificial, tired.

    Even if GLBT clients wanted to hire Mr. Zito, his first stumbling block with gay couples is his own discomfort with imagining two men being affectionate (ick! they really want photos of that?). If he took the next step forward, he'd be afraid of making a man look feminine. I suspect in his head, men always look and pose a certain way, and women always look and pose a certain way. He might get over himself if he actually knew some gay couples and got de-sensitized.

    Anybody honestly curious about how to pose two men could take a look at the beautiful, romantic work Matthew Kristall did for Out Magazine's "Love" issue, with the cover of Neal Patrick Harris and David Burtka. The photo set, with brief essays by Messrs Harris and Burtka, is here:

    Posted by: SC David | Dec 27, 2012 12:34:12 PM

  3. These people need to be disabused of the notion that THEY are marrying anyone. The STATE is marrying couples. YOU are just stamping some paperwork, dear, so either do your job or find another.

    It might be an interesting project for a photographer to track these people down, the clerks who refuse to issue licenses, the trolley operators, photographers, and cake bakers who refuse to deal with gay couples, etc. take very simple portraits of them, with no implied editorial judgment. In a decade or so it'll be like looking at the photos of Southerners who opposed desegregation.

    The photographers don't know how to POSE same-sex couples? Granted I'm not a photographer, but I'd think that most couples (gay or straight) have an idea of how they want to pose, the kind of photos they want. Unless you're actually a creative photographer (like L Hewitt who someone linked earlier), and these statements seem to rule that out, all you have to do is focus the camera.

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 27, 2012 12:38:26 PM

  4. Amen to Francis on the bigots going into the closet or the other posters noting that people become more religious when confronted with marriage equality...all the while enjoying their quickie Las Vegas marriages and the ability to divorce. If they truly want to protect marriage, then BAN DIVORCE and STFU!

    Posted by: todd | Dec 27, 2012 12:40:25 PM

  5. "I can't photograph Black people. Just never can get the lighting right.

    Used to be a barber. Couldn't cut their curly hair either."

    Posted by: John Zito | Dec 27, 2012 12:44:51 PM

  6. He won't shoot a wedding because you don't know how to pose the people? What does the photographer do with any other "unusual" situation? Bride in a wheelchair? Outdoor wedding? Ugly wedding dress? Sounds like a useless photographer to me. If he has to pose every single wedding exactly the same way then he sure as hell isn't worth the money. What are you paying for if not for the photographer to be creative in coming up with unique and beautiful shots?

    Posted by: Kenton | Dec 27, 2012 12:50:18 PM

  7. I am very upset to see this, because I was there for the interview that was done regarding the Maryland Wedding Professionals Association and the passing of Question 6. And none of the quotes above are accurate from Mr. John Zito. We were glad that it was passed and the MWPA happily serves all couples equally!
    This article should be removed because it has false statements.

    Posted by: Paige Schmidt | Dec 27, 2012 12:51:23 PM

  8. hard to believe that some people are so stupid that they don't realize how stupid they sound.

    Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC | Dec 27, 2012 12:57:56 PM

  9. It's against my religion to have homophobic clerks serve me.
    Please express your objection to people keeping their jobs.

    Posted by: DC Arnold | Dec 27, 2012 1:04:23 PM

  10. , It's interesting that a comment I made to a journalist on how some "wedding industry" vendors feel about providing the best service available is deemed my philosophy on photographing gay or lesbian couples. Everyone in the industry that I know has no problem with gay or lesbian marriage, including myself. Many people are asking what to expect and what is different if anything. It is new to the industry and to many vendors. If someone wants to provide the best service that they can provide and does not feel like they would do justice at this point to any couple then they are showing true professionalism by referring the couple to another vendor. Just because a carpenter can hang kitchen cabinets doesn't mean he would be the best choice to build your home. If he took the contract and did a less than adequate job building your home, I would consider that less then professional. Just like the wedding industry, if someone doesn't feel they can adequately provide the best service available then they should by all means refer someone else. I will continue to photograph gay and lesbian couples and provide the best service that I can provide. You are way off base here.

    Posted by: John Zito | Dec 27, 2012 1:11:59 PM

  11. "There are some deputy clerks......."
    ....who don't like doing their jobs according to the laws.
    Well this is real easy to answer.
    "There are some people very against same sex marriage....."
    So what ?
    They are not required to be for anything, they are only required to process an administrative task.....and one that is not very demanding at that.
    Do we now have "deputy clerks" making judgment calls on what laws they will and will not administer ?
    The lunatics have truly taken over this asylum.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Dec 27, 2012 1:13:42 PM

  12. Anyone who doesn't know how to pose a same-sex couple has serious problems with gender roles in general. Probably because they were raised as fundamentalist religionists and can't relate to anyone or anything with seeing them through the religion lense. They are probably steeped in patriarchal thinking and would also have problems with an opposite-sex couple where the woman isn't a meek submissive or where the man has some stereotypical feminine habits or interests.

    Posted by: Steve | Dec 27, 2012 1:21:56 PM

  13. Another wonderful photographer who is in the photography business, and not the religious business, is Kathy Unzicker Byrd.

    Posted by: Rev. Dr. Verdon Coleman | Dec 27, 2012 1:30:27 PM

  14. Zito's response is dishonest.

    The article quotes him relating comments from the claimed colleague but also quotes him as saying he has shot commitment ceremonies and found the posing "awkward."

    Not only a mediocre photographer, but dishonest.

    Posted by: SC David | Dec 27, 2012 1:34:44 PM

  15. Bigots have always been and will always be with us. These same people most certainly look down their noses at people of color, mixed race couples, Jews, Muslims and anyone not conforming to their narrow minded view of the world. The best thing to do is blow their ignorance off with a quick laugh and a wave of the hand.

    ""The Philistine not only ignores all conditions of life which are not his own but also demands that the rest of mankind should fashion its mode of existence after his own", and "What is a philistine? A hollow gut, full of fear and hope that God will have mercy!" - Goethe

    Posted by: Dearcomrade | Dec 27, 2012 1:39:52 PM

  16. You know, I work for a municipality and if I were to refuse services, I could quickly be fired--despite me being in a union. City governments are service organizations and anyone who can't provide the service required is unfit to work for that city. These people only want to work a portion of the city.....screw 'em and their sociopathy.

    Posted by: woodroad34d | Dec 27, 2012 1:50:11 PM

  17. John, are you saying that the quote is not accurate? Did you say, "I'm a photographer by trade myself, and I've done a couple of commitment ceremonies, and it is kind of awkward," referring to posing gay couples?

    Why do you think some people would not do a good job with it? What possibly could be the cause for their incompetence? Can you write it out please?

    Could it perhaps be your/their bigotry?

    Or are you simply a bad photographer?

    Posted by: Mawm | Dec 27, 2012 1:57:43 PM

  18. Btw, not that the article totally confuses the issue. It says "in the St. Mary's County Circuit Court will stop performing marriage"

    This is nonsense right there. The only person in a court that can perform marriages is a judge. What we are really talking about here are clerks. These do NOT officiate at weddings. All they do is hand out marriage licenses, which is a purely administrative affair. There can be no "religious objection" to that.

    Posted by: Steve | Dec 27, 2012 2:06:40 PM

  19. As a government employee I have had to deal with children (under 18) wanting to have an abortion without their parents approval. I have had to deal with people with horrible criminal past----domestic violence, rape, incest, child molestation even murder. Not once was I given the option to not deal with this person, nor would I think I should be allowed to. I remember when the AIDS epidemic was at its highest. Some of my co-workers would wash their desk right after the interview. Times have changed and people change. Those who don't will find themselves on the other side of history.

    We cannot allow any political or governmental offical to think it is o.k. to use Religion as reason to be an bigot. If you cannot do the job there are many who would like to take your place. If someone doesn't want our gay dollars we don't have to give them our gay dollars but we need to let others know who they are? I would like to see a listing of those companys who have anti gay opinions.

    Posted by: Dawson | Dec 27, 2012 2:25:19 PM

  20. I wrote Zito, got a response within an hour.

    He quoted his above posting on Towleroad, then pulls out the old "remarks were taken out of context" excuse. He says he's shot 50 weddings a year for 10 years (his website shows far fewer), and has never refused service to gay clients. He claims he's excited about the "learning curve." I predict he will soon start claiming he's a victim.

    He really doesn't get it. Some gay couples and some progressive straight couples in his hometown need to reach out to him. I've suggested to him that he bring in a photographer experienced in same-sex weddings to do a workshop for his membership.

    Posted by: SC David | Dec 27, 2012 2:45:31 PM

  21. Since when did gay men need to be told how to pose?

    Posted by: Anastasia Beaverhausen | Dec 27, 2012 2:53:54 PM

  22. Love the comment, Anastasia, but it doesn't seem like it's the couples at fault here.

    Posted by: Paul R | Dec 27, 2012 3:50:18 PM

  23. I must admit that I missed who the bigot is. It is Joan Williams. It is the clerk of the St. Mary's County Circuit Court. She is the clerk. She is in the leadership position. She knows the law and she knows the issue of discrimination, but she wants to keep institutional discrimination in place. Instead of educating the deputy clerks about their administrative duties and ending discrimination, she as an agent of the government chooses a religion to support and re-enforces bigotry. Does she reassign deputy clerks that do not want to provide service for african americans, muslins, divorcees, women? What religious beliefs or moral convictions get this special reassignment? Shame on you Joan Williams, shame on you! Don't let her shift the blame to the deputy clerks, it is her job to ensure fair and just treatment to all citizens.

    Posted by: Nigel | Dec 27, 2012 6:14:28 PM

  24. Why is wrong for people to disagree with gay marriage based upon faith? Oh I'm sure that the sharks will circle this post but conservatives have the right to their beliefs. I never met a liberal gay that was ever accepting of a differing view point.

    Posted by: RB | Dec 27, 2012 6:16:21 PM

  25. Call me weird but, being a public servant myself, I was always instructed that my job consisted in serving the public impartially, without regard to my own personal prejudices.

    Would it be deemed acceptable were some county official to insist that he or she would only process marriage applications submitted by Catholics, or by Baptists, or by Presbyterians, or by couples that were both of the same race?

    As far as the photographers go, you gotta give the fellow who won't do same-sex ceremonies credit for admitting he's not competent.

    Posted by: Bob | Dec 27, 2012 6:24:27 PM

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