Sharon Valentine-Thomas, the Republican candidate for register of wills in Pennsylvania's Montgomery County, wants to be the new Kim Davis. "I am opposed to gay marriages on religious grounds, and my conscience will not allow me to sign off on marriage certificates for gay couples," Ms. Valentine Thomas stated recently. "People should not have to violate their conscience to run or to serve," she believes. Although she plans to discriminate if elected, she is forging ahead with her campaign.
I am a resident, a gay resident, of Montgomery County. Ms. Valentine-Thomas will not get my vote despite her claims of not being an "obstructionist." If elected, she will seek a court-ordered accommodation to allow her subordinates to do the dirty work of issuing marriage licenses to us gay folks.
If she proposes to pawn off her work, why should I vote for her? If she judges my marriage to be unacceptable, why would I want her to serve me in our local government?
Montgomery County was the first Pennsylvania county to issue licenses to same-sex couples. D. Bruce Hanes, the current register or wills (who is running for a third term against Ms. Valentine-Thomas) defied the discriminatory Pennsylvania law in 2013 and expanded the issuance of licenses to gay couples. My now-husband and I were the 25th pair to get one of these licenses in Pennsylvania.
If Ms. Valentine-Thomas were to be elected, would she refuse other services to us? The office handles petitions for adoptions and probates wills. If we wanted to bring a child into our home, would her religious beliefs bar her from granting adoption? If my husband passed away (heaven forbid), would it be against her conscience to deal with his estate? In a moment of intense personal grief, will I discover that the person elected to probate my husband's will finds our marriage objectionable and his will invalid?
When I place a vote, I expect my chosen candidate to do the work for all of the people in the county, not just those she finds personally acceptable. Ms. Valentine-Thomas wants "to serve with the same landmark accommodations afforded to Kim Davis in Kentucky," she states. But the circumstances are different here. First, the expansion of the law to allow same-sex marriages occurred while Kim Davis was in office. Ms. Valentine-Thomas has not been elected yet. Why is she seeking a job that violates her personal beliefs? Kim Davis' "accommodation" to authorize her deputies to issue licenses was granted after much legal wrangling and jail time. It is questionable whether the licenses issued from her office are valid. This is not a model we should emulate in Montgomery County.
Some may say that I am hypocritical to support Mr. Hanes for defying the law while decrying Ms. Valentine-Thomas for refusing to follow the law. However, there is a significant difference in the actions of the two. Mr. Hanes wanted to do more for the citizens of the county, to open up the services of his office to everyone in the county equally. Ms. Valentine-Thomas seeks to limit the services she will provide, to restrict her work to serve those in the county that follow her personal belief system. Mr. Hanes is inclusive; Ms. Valentine-Thomas is not.
- "I Don't Like You / Vote for Me!"
- "You Are an Abomination, Let Me Work for You!"
- "Give Me the Job and I Will Get Someone Else To Do It!"
- "Let's Make America Discriminatory Again!"
Ms. Valentine-Thomas should not run for a job for which she is not fully prepared to commit. I cannot pick and choose whom I will serve in my job. I am a college professor. At the start of a semester, I do not read my class lists and decide which students I will teach and which I will refuse to teach. I am not permitted to point at two students and say, "I object to you on moral grounds" and ask them to leave. Even if I made accommodations for them to be tutored and to get the homework and notes from other students, I would not be doing my job.
Just as I must accept each student that qualifies to be in my classes, Ms. Valentine-Thomas must accept each citizen that lives in Montgomery County who wants to get a marriage license, or adoption approval, etc.
My vote goes to D. Bruce Hanes. He is the candidate who fought for my rights two years ago. He will do his job fully if re-elected.