Douchebag Decree: Barbara MacEwen & the Haters of New York

ye olde douchebag decree in royal blue letters over a baby blue drawing of a douchebag. Underneath, in small red letters, is type reading "BITCH HEREBY DECLARES THE FOLLOWING PERSON A TOTAL DOUCHEBAG."

Still thrilled about New York’s victory for marriage equality? Yep, me too. I wish I could have finished off Pride month in the Big Apple amongst millions of ecstatic fellow QUILTBAGs.

You know who’s not as happy, though? Douchebaggery all-stars like big-gay-storm-fearers NOM (which stands for National Organization for Marriage, and yes, they often write it as “NOM”) and the Campaign for Children and Their Families. Both of these hateful, misleadingly named groups have been thorns in activists’ sides for awhile, but now, NOM has a new heroine and faux-“casualty”: Barbara MacEwen, the town clerk for Volney, New York.

Barbara MacEwen, an elderly white woman white short grey hair and glasses, sits at a desk staring at the camera with a slight smile.

Barbara MacEwen’s signature has been required on all Volney marriage certificates for a whopping eighteen years. Though she hopes to be reelected for a fifth term, MacEwen made an announcement last week: On July 24, she intends to stop doing her job.

In other words, she intends to not put her signature on same-sex couples’ marriage licenses.

Currently, those marrying in Volney must go through MacEwen. Despite a few conveniently vague comments about God, it’s safe to assume it’s occurred to MacEwen that such a stunt might prevent same-sex marriages from happening there at all. Luckily, although New York’s new legislation reportedly gives exemptions to anti-gay religious organizations, there is no such option for public officials. What she plans to do is not allowed.

I have a special fury for people who oppose marriage equality (seriously, WHY?), especially when they grapple for an excuse in religion… or when they act as if our marriages make them a victim. This week, Barbara joins many other hateful figures in the Hall of Douche.

Don’t worry, though: Taking a page from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, MacEwen doesn’t think Those People have infiltrated Volney anyway. In a much-reprinted soundbite for POLITICO, she hastened to say, “I don’t know of anybody like that in my town. I’m sure that there might be, but I haven’t heard about anybody.”

Gee, I wonder why the QUILTBAGs she knows aren’t out to her.

As usual when it comes to queer rights, those who support these sentiments about New York’s progress are talking about anything but queer rights. MacEwen’s calculated statement, “I don’t feel I should be forced into something that’s against my morals and my God” attempts to frame her opposition as being about something more salient than homophobia, namely freedom of religion. Here’s the thing, though: When a person’s job is, explicitly, to sign documents for couples that can married by the laws of New York, religion does not enter into it. Far-right groups such as the Heritage Foundation want clerks like her to have “conscience” amendments, which, as Jill Filipovic points out, is awfully similar to the anti-choicers’ goal to enable doctors and pharmacists to refuse to provide life-saving abortions, morning-after pills, or, well, whatever they feel like refusing.

So, what’s next? The only part that seems clear at this point is that Barbara MacEwen will not succesfully thwart Volney’s marriage-minded couples. Is she resigning? Being fired? Working toward enabling a deputy to sign for her? Putting aside her bigotry and doing her job?

I guess we’ll find out at the end of the month. In any case, MacEwen & co., the joke’s on you. Though sometimes slowly, progress is being made, and a Central Park’s worth of douchebags couldn’t obscure that.

Photo via the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Read more:
Central New York officials, religious leaders prepare for same-sex marriage law to go into effect [The Syracuse Post-Standard]
NY Town Clerk refuses to sign same-sex marriage certificates [Left of the Hudson]
Town clerk balks at issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples [LGBTQ Nation]
Of course. [Feministe]
Barbara MacEwen, Religious Liberty, and Special Rights [Waking Up Now]

by Deb Jannerson
View profile »

Get Bitch Media's top 9 reads of the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning! Sign up for the Weekly Reader:

10 Comments Have Been Posted

I don't think anyone should

I don't think anyone should be forced to do anything that is against their religious beliefs, however no-one is forcing these people to be the position where they have to choose.

Don't want to hand over the morning after pill? Don't become a pharmacist.
Don't want to drive a car with a service dog in it? Don't become a taxi driver.
Don't want to perform life-saving abortions? Become a cardiologist rather than whatever kind of doctor does those.
She doesn't want to sign the certificates? She can resign.

Well said!

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Hear, hear! People who think

Hear, hear! People who think their jobs entitle them to infringe on other people's rights do not deserve those jobs!

I agree.

I agree. I didn't get into this in the post, but I have also had jobs in which my beliefs were compromised (spiritual and otherwise). Unlike MacEwen, I was under no illusion that I was entitled to selectively shirk duties without losing the positions.

This just shows how deeply embedded prejudice is

This just shows how deeply embedded prejudice really is in our society. I think if you're an open minded person who surrounds yourself with other progressive thinkers, you sometimes forget how absolutely BACKWARDS the rest of the world can be. That is, until you read a story like this...


While I agree that it is ridiculous to deny same sex couples the right to marry, I could not help being taken aback by the comments to this story: If you don't like the changes in society that apply to your job, then resign? And do what exactly? It is not that easy to change your profession.
Besides, that is not even the issue. The issue is that there will always be people to whom progressive policies are offensive and threatening. And why shouldn't there be? There is no one right conception of modernity. Complete societal concensus is not the goal of pro-abortion and gay mariage activists, is it? It is to create options for marginalized groups. As long as the legal options are achieved, it is only fair to allow for plurality and let some doctors and officials refuse to act against their beliefs. Of course, this is only a fair policy if there is a way to go around these people and still get what is rightfully yours.

Uh... No.

I live in a VERY liberal part of the country, am gay and socially progressive, but I must often play the role of apologist for people who are anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-civil rights, pro-theocracy. I grew up very conservative and religious, and my family still is, so I know that these people are not truly wicked; most of the time they are scared and uneducated. That doesn't make them bad. Sometimes, it makes them the most ready for change. After all, they have everything to gain by rejecting the irrational fear and loathing that makes them lash out at and repress others. So I am coming from a place that respects plurality, even though it means I must embrace those who reject plurality, me, and--quite frankly--the call to love one another, if they are of the fundamentalist Christian sort.

BUT plurality is about how we treat each other as humans, how we think about human behavior and respond to each other with understanding and compassion. It is NOT about using one's position in society to harm or segregate or dehumanize others. Our concept of freedom of religion is based on no state sponsorship of a religion. It also assumes that the application of a belief does no harm to others. Anyone who is licensed or employed by the state (whether a doctor, or pharmacist, or clerk) therefore should not be allowed to pick and choose whom they help and whom they shove aside. It's irresponsible; it's even un-Christian. Judge not lest ye be judged and all.

So if an American soldier in

So if an American soldier in combat didn't want to kill an enemy combatant, should he be allowed to ask that someone else do it for him because killing is against his morals/religion? Yet the guy VOLUNTEERED to be a soldier! Since when do we let people pick and choose what PART of their job to perform!?!? NO WAY to Ms. MacEwen. Let her go on the unemployment line.....LOTS of unemployed Americans would love her job.

well honestly, off topic

well honestly, off topic slightly, but it would be refreshing to have more soldiesrs that think before they shoot ...

if the main issue is doing your whole job or not, well then magine it was all reversed. Imagine she would not be ALLOWED to sign off on gay marriage but really wanted to because discrimination against gays was at odds with her beliefs...then it would be quite ok for her to neglect her job out of protest, would it not?

if our goal is tolerance and equal opportunities for all, then even those who are intolerant themselves should also have a (clearly deliniated but still present) place in society...

No, it would not be okay to

Tiny fascists

WTF is with the Right these days and their attempts to empower smarmy little bastards who want to dictate their morals to others? Bad enough hospitals and pharmacies have been given a LEGAL out to certain services (their bigotry is now State-sanctioned... yay)... now they want to extend it to public officials? What, a bottom-up dictatorship is better or something?

And isn't it just so coooonvieeeent that these "conscience" issues NEVER show up when it involves straight guys. I'd love to exercise MY conscience by not having to fill Cialis prescriptions for whiny skeevy assholes... you think I'd be able to get away with that, though?

Add new comment