County Clerk's gay marriage comment draws criticism

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Sioux Falls, SD South Dakota is now accepting name changes for same-sex couples in the wake of last Friday's landmark ruling on gay marriage.

Starting Monday, same-sex couples can get their names changed on their driver's license with a marriage certificate and two recent documents verifying their address.

But one Sioux Falls woman says couples may not get the warmest greeting in Minnehaha County.

While waiting in line with her daughter at the Minnehaha County treasurer's office Monday, a Sioux Falls mom says she overheard a county clerk make what she calls an offensive comment about the new changes for same sex couples in South Dakota.

"I overheard a part of a conversation with a person in front of us and the clerk that was there, they were discussing the SCOTUS ruling from last week," Ellee Spawn said.

It is a conversation topic Spawn felt was inappropriate under the circumstances in the first place, but she believes the clerk's response was even worse.

"Her reaction to that was 'well apparently I'm just going to marry my dog, because we can just marry whoever we want anymore.' It struck a cord; I thought that was wrong, you can't compare beastiality with two consenting adults getting married-they're not the same thing," Spawn said.

She says the clerk is entitled to her own opinion on the matter, but says she's upset it happened in a public building.

"She has the right to think what she wants to think and say what she wants to say, but not on tax payer property and not on the taxpayers' payroll. I'm not going to fund her hate speech, and I don't think you should or your neighbors should," Spawn said.

Minnehaha County Treasurer Pam Nelson agrees her employees should not be voicing personal opinions at work.

"My employees are told they're not supposed to make personal comments about anything personal or political, they shouldn't be talking about anything other than business at their windows, that's what they're told," Nelson said.

But Nelson believes it's not just an issue for the county, she says it's generally a common rule at all businesses.

"There's no universal opinion on things one way or the other and someone could be easily offended, and we don't intend in this office or in any business to say things that could be offensive to customers, or the public or the taxpayers. So in order to avoid that problem, we need to be really careful not to be commenting on things or sharing your opinion or judging other people's opinions," Nelson said.

Nelson says she did speak to the clerk about the comment. Nelson says the clerk told her it was just a misunderstanding; the clerk says she wasn't making reference to the Supreme Court decision, she was just commenting on how much she loves her dog.