Former county employee seeks lost wages in ‘wrongful termination’ suit
A Corydon woman has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in New Albany against Harrison County and County Clerk Sally Whitis, alleging that she was wrongfully terminated due to her religious beliefs.
According to court documents, Linda G. Summers, a member of First Capital Christian Church in Corydon and a former deputy clerk in Whitis’ office, based upon the biblical teaching of Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9-10 and I Timothy 1:9-10, believes it to be a sin for persons of the same sex to engage in sexual relations, that persons of the same sex cannot and should not be morally or legally recognized as spouses and that God will judge individual Christians, as well as the society of which they are part of, who condone or institute same-sex marriages.
The suit says that on or about Oct. 22 of last year ‘ just a few days after the U.S. Supreme Court denied petitions to hear same-sex marriage cases from five states, including Indiana ‘ Whitis circulated email communications to all employees concerning the published decision of the Indiana Supreme Court to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, saying that it was the duty of clerks in the office to process those applications and, ‘even though it may be against your personal beliefs, we are required by state law to process their applications.’
The Supreme Court’s decision affirmed lower-court rulings that legalized same-sex marriages.
On Dec. 8, a same-sex couple came to the clerk’s office to apply for a marriage license, which Summers, who had been employed at the office for about six years, was called upon to process. She allegedly told Whitis she felt she could not prepare the appropriate paperwork for a marriage license for the couple due to her religious beliefs.
Later that day, Summers gave Whitis a letter asking for a religious accommodation request in which she felt being required to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples violated her religious beliefs based upon biblical teaching. She asked that Whitis accommodate her beliefs, noting there were two other employees in the clerk’s office who had offered to process such applications when received.
That same day, Whitis terminated Summers because of her refusal to process applications for marriage, noting a personnel policy that stated ‘refusing to perform assigned work or to comply with written or verbal instructions of supervisors’ will subject ‘the individual involved to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.’
The same policy states that the County of Harrison prohibits ‘discrimination in employment because of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, military status or any other classification under applicable law.’
Summers is seeking all earnings, wages, bonuses and other benefits, both past and future, that she would have received had she not been terminated, as well as attorneys’ fees and any other relief determined to be just and proper. She’s also asking that the county be ordered to modify its existing employment practices.