Letter: County Clerk Should Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses
Open Letter to Portage County Clerk Shirley Simonis:
In 2002, my family and I moved to the beautiful City of Stevens Point. Although my partner had lived in this county before, I had never been in a city smaller than 125,000 people.
I feared that we would not be accepted. I wasn’t sure how our new neighbors would react when we bought our first house together, secured local employment, and participated in community activities. What I found was a city of people that welcomed us with open arms and open hearts. Portage County is a progressive community that looked beyond our sexual orientation. We were valued by the content of our character rather than who we slept next to when we turned in for the night. In hindsight, I should not have worried. Had I done my research, I would have found that Portage County had a well-established history of forward thinking and inclusiveness. It is because of that history that I’m terribly saddened by the recent turn of events as it relates to same-sex marriage licenses in Portage County.
As of today, Shirley Simonis, our elected County Clerk, is refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. After discussing this issue with her, she has stated that she’s following the guidance of the Portage County Corporation Counsel. The issue has been described as out of her hands, however the county clerk is an elected position. Under Article VI of the state constitution, our county clerks are charged with the duties listed throughout statues. One of those duties is to process marriage licenses. We the citizenry of Portage County have entrusted her to perform these duties, and right now that duty is to make a decision on the directive that was put directly into the hands of county clerks. By deferring the decision to Corporation Counsel Mike McKenna, she is not completing the task that we as citizens elected her to do on our behalf.
On August 3rd, 2009, my partner and I proudly became the first couple in Portage County to register for the Wisconsin Domestic Partnership Registry. On August 27th, 2013, after the Supreme Court struck down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, we made the painful decision to travel out of state to enter into the sacred union of marriage. This decision was difficult because we left behind our supportive friends, family, and neighbors in order to obtain the legal rights, protections, and recognition that our heterosexual neighbors are afforded when they enter into marriage.
As proud residents of Portage County, we implore Shirley Simonis to join the majority of other Wisconsin county clerks by recognizing the recent federal court ruling. We urge her to do this fully and expeditiously. The time has come to align Portage County’s historically progressive and inclusive values with its actions by immediately allowing same-sex couples to obtain a marriage license. The time has come to allow our same-sex couples the right to marry locally. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Melanie Kuolt, Stevens Point