Attorneys: West Virginia clerk apologizes to lesbian couple
By MICHAEL VIRTANEN
Aug. 30, 2017
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A lesbian couple are receiving a public apology and $10,000 in damages from a county clerk's office in West Virginia where they were disparaged when applying for a marriage license last year, the couple's attorneys said Wednesday.
Amanda Abramovich and Samantha Brookover sued Gilmer County Deputy Clerk Debbie Allen and Clerk Jean Butcher, saying Allen told the couple while processing their application that they were an "abomination," what they were doing was wrong and that God would "deal" with them.
As part of the settlement, the clerk's office has agreed to issue a public apology in a news release that also will announce the monetary settlement and include a promise to refrain from such treatment in the future, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Mayer Brown law firm, the two groups that filed the suit, said in a statement.
The lawsuit alleged the clerks violated the couple's equal-protection rights under the constitution, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 ruling upholding the rights of same-sex couples to wed.
The couple also alleged that when Brookover's mother complained to Butcher about the treatment by her deputy clerk, Butcher said they deserved it and the next same-sex couple that sought a license would get the same or worse from her office.
The clerk's statement will promise that "all people seeking services and doing business with the county will be treated courteously and with respect regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Americans United said.
"Our clients, they absolutely wanted to make sure it doesn't happen again," said Eric Rothschild, senior litigation attorney for Washington-based Americans United. The group didn't hear from anyone else with similar complaints after filing the suit in April in the Northern District of West Virginia, he said.
Butcher said Wednesday that she didn't know about the apology and settlement and referred calls to the county's outside lawyer, who didn't immediately respond to telephone messages.
Judge Irene Keeley dismissed the case Wednesday after both sides filed a joint stipulation saying they had reached a settlement agreement.