Despite all the political posturing from Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton, the state is largely complying with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of nationwide marriage equality.
The Employee Retirement System of Texas, which was sued pre-emptively by Lambda Legal, has begun offering benefits to same-sex spouses, as have the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems.
Equality Texas’ Daniel Williams (map above) reports that 115 Texas counties, representing 84 percent of the state’s population, are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Some of those not issuing licenses say they’re waiting on software updates. But others, such as Hood County Clerk Katie Lang, who we first told you about yesterday and ironically somewhat shares a name with lesbian songstress K.D. Lang, are openly defiant.
I would like to issue a statement that I will be not be issuing same sex marriage license’s due to my religious convictions.
In the Attorney General’s opinion, Ken Paxton, issued in response to Lt. Governor Patrick’s request for guidance, we find that although it fabricated a new constitutional right in 2015, the Supreme Court did not diminish, overrule, or call into question the First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion that formed the first freedom in the Bill of Rights in 1791. This newly invented federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage should peaceably coexist alongside longstanding constitutional and statutory rights, including the rights to free exercise of religion and speech. This opinion concludes that:
“County clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.”
Despite Lang’s resistance, she remains in the minority. Even the clerk in San Saba County west of Austin, who previously claimed a religious objection and threatened to call the sheriff on a reporter who asked her about the issue, granted a marriage license to a same-sex couple Tuesday:
— Sophia Beausoleil (@Sophia_beau) June 30, 2015
UPDATE: Hood County Clerk Katie Lang has relented and her office will now issue licenses to same-sex couples, according to her website:
“The religious doctrines to which I adhere compel me to personally refrain from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Nonetheless, in addition to the county clerk offices in the several surrounding counties, as soon as the appropriate forms have been printed and supplied to my office, the County Clerk’s Office of Hood County will have staff available and ready to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
“Because some have misreported and misconstrued my prior statements, I want to make clear that the County Clerk’s Office of Hood County will comply with the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.”
According to The Star-Telegram of Fort Worth, some county clerks feel that Paxton threw them under the bus.
Watch a report from Anderson Cooper on Texas’ resistance to marriage equality below: