Debate: Biblical marriage poster at govt. office

Posted at 5:15 AM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-08 07:15:16-05

It's hanging on the wall, above the desks where marriage licenses are issued. That's why a poster that quotes a Bible verse referencing marriage between a man and a woman is causing controversy in Elbert County.

The poster shows a bride and a groom, with a verse that reads "...each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband." The verse is from I Corinthians.

Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder would not appear on camera because he has obtained outside legal counsel, but he says the poster has been up for 15 months without any complaints.

However, Denver7 has learned that several people have recently complained directly to Schroeder: Lark Fogel, Tony Carrado and Jim Duvall, and a group of people opposed to the poster met on Monday night to discuss it.

"I don’t know what the intentions were, but to me it’s a mean spirited message we give to all of our citizens that come in for licenses," said Jeff Lehman, a longtime Elizabeth resident who feels the message is dismissive of his friends and family.

And while Schroeder claimed the poster was simply "a celebration of marriage," an email obtained by Denver7 suggests otherwise.

This summer, Schroeder wrote an email to several Colorado Court Clerks discussing same sex marriage and the poster he had specifically made in response to it.

"My thought process is that they have to see the poster," writes Schroeder in the email. "And if they choose to violate God’s written Word, then that is on their head."

Schroeder said his office has followed the law and issued two same-sex marriage licenses.

 The poster raises two questions: why does an office that gives out marriage licenses, including to same-sex couples, have this hanging on the wall? And is this an issue of separation of church and state?

Lark Fogel and her wife Janine Gerovski were married in Iowa, but call Elbert County home.

When she recently saw the poster in the Clerk's office, she said she asked him to take it down.

"Everybody who comes in to get a marriage license is entitled to equal protection. And that’s not what they’re getting in Elbert County. They’re getting a church service — it’s not right," said Fogel, who is also an attorney. "We don’t need another lawsuit, either. He is clearly in the wrong."  

The Freedom From Religion organization out of Madison, Wisconsin is now getting involved, pushing for the poster to be taken down as well.

But for right now, it is still hanging on the office wall. 

Denver7 spoke to several people in Kiowa, who were split on the issue.

"I wouldn't put the poster up if I was a government employee. I just believe they should be neutral. There shouldn't be a mix between church and state," Greg Birky said.

"I don't think it's them forcing the issue on anyone. I think it's making a statement and we're all free to do that," Angela Janes countered.