Texas AG Ken Paxton said county clerks can refuse to issue gay marriage licenses on religious freedom grounds. The highly controversial same-sex marriage ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court sent states scrambling to deal with an onslaught of homosexual couples seeking to tie the knot over the weekend.
Ken Paxton, the Republican Texas Attorney General, called the U.S. Supreme Court gay marriage decision a “lawless ruling” and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he expects civil disobedience by Christians and conservatives over the same-sex marriage ruling.
Paxton issued a statement on Sunday noting that any county clerk, government administrator, or justice of the peace who declines a gay couple a marriage license could face a fine or legal repercussions. The Texas official also stated that “numerous lawyers” are standing by to defend public officials citing religious objections to issuing a license — free of charge.
The Supreme Court gay marriage ruling did not eliminate religious freedom, Paxton also added. Although the Texas Attorney General is but one of a multitude of Republican lawmakers who noted disagreement with the same-sex marriage ruling, he is possibly the first to issue a statement to government workers about opting out of participation by citing religious objections. The statement by the AG also said that Supreme Court justices “weakened the rule of law” and “fabricated a new constitutional right.”
“This newly minted federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage can and should peaceably coexist with longstanding constitutional and statutory rights, including the rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of speech,” Paxton said.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott appeared to echo agreement with Paxton and said that citizens cannot be forced to betray their own religious beliefs by engaging in the issuance of gay marriage licenses.
“Despite the Supreme Court’s rulings, Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains protected,” Governor Abbott said after the ruling.
Governor Abbott issued a 2-page memo about the decision and stated that “adverse action” against Texans acting in conjunction with their religious beliefs should not be taken.
John Wittman, a spokesman for the governor, noted that the memo issued by Abbott “ensures that individuals doing business with the state cannot be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs.”
However, he also brought up the Constitution’s First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, but said that “the strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.”
The Texas Attorney General said that justices and judges in Texas have never legally been required to perform marriages in the state. Paxton, therefore, feels that they could refuse gay couples without finding an alternative option for them to wed, based upon their religious beliefs. County clerks are required to attempt to find a deputy to issue marriage licenses if they refuse to do so based upon religious freedom rights. State officials can reportedly refuse to issue licenses if doing so does not place an “undue burden” on the individuals requesting the form.
What do you think about the gay marriage ruling and the religious freedom objections which may be used to deny license to same-sex couples in Texas?
[Image via Shutterstock]