A Hood County, TX licensing clerk is about to be hit with a lawsuit, thanks to her refusal to issue a license allowing same-sex couples to marry. Katie Lang, a clerk responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Granbury, denied Joe Stapleton and Dr. Jim Cato, who have been together for 27 years, a license that would have allowed the couple to officially get married. Gay marriage became legal through the entire United States thanks to a Supreme Court ruling June 26, but there have been a few states that seem to have been dragging their heels to get on board.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is now potentially facing securities fraud charges, came under fire earlier this week for his belief that the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage had “weakened the rule of law,” and now his state could be one of the first to be facing a gay marriage lawsuit. Paxton had essentially encouraged licensing clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples on the basis of their religious beliefs, were they of a mind to do so. According to NBC News affiliate NBCDFW, when Stapleton and Cato went to ask about a marriage license, Lang told them initially that it was her religious right not to issue a marriage license, thus potentially paving the way for a gay marriage lawsuit.
The gay marriage lawsuit is not designed to cost Lang her job, Dr. Cato said. He is arguing that he and Stapleton have had their 14th Amendment rights denied. Lang said her office will be issuing these licenses effective June 30, but now, it appears that she has told the couple and their lawyer that the forms allowing for same-sex marriage will not be ready for another three weeks. That means, according to Dr. Cato and Stapleton, the gay marriage lawsuit will be going ahead Monday, July 6.
A similar battle has been brewing in Kentucky, where a clerk is being sued by four couples who came to her for marriage licenses. Rowan County clerk Kim Davis said her Christian beliefs prevented her from issuing licenses for same-sex marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union in Kentucky has filed the lawsuit on the couples’ behalf. It is Davis’ belief that her religious beliefs supersede the SCOTUS ruling. However, in an interesting turn, the office has said if they issue licenses to no one, they cannot be accused of discrimination and so, two heterosexual couples are involved in the Kentucky ACLU lawsuit.
It seems, however, that county clerks feel that their bosses have left them a little in the lurch. Texas’ Yoakum County clerk Deborah Rushing contends that “no one had [her] back” once the Supreme Court ruling came down and while Attorney General Paxton did tell clerks to expect to be open to civil liability if they did not follow the law and adhered to their religious beliefs as he suggested, Ellis County Clerk Cindy Polley wondered if “it seem[ed] to anyone else the AG [was] putting it back on us?”
— Phillip M. Bailey (@phillipmbailey) July 3, 2015
Whether it is the ACLU or personal lawyers hired for any gay marriage lawsuit that ensues, there continue to be questions, concerns and a general sense of dismay surrounding the ruling and how it affects those wanting to support their own religious convictions.
(Photo courtesy: The Atlantic)