Why do Texas Senate Republicans insist on making ridiculous statements about gay marriage?
The state Senate has approved a measure — with all GOP members and one Democrat joining them — that allows county clerks to recuse themselves from signing off on marriage licenses for gay couples.
Senate Bill 522, authored by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, allows county commissioners courts to appoint someone other than the county clerk to sign such a marriage license if the county clerk objects on religious grounds.
As the Texas Tribune reports: “It ‘guarantees county clerks and every American the free exercise of religion even when they are working for the government,’ Birdwell told his colleagues on Tuesday.”
Huh? Senate Democrats are perplexed at this. Why? Because current state law already allows county clerks to deputize an employee to carry out that duty.
County clerks are entitled to follow their religious faith. I get that. Here is what I do not understand: I do not understand how they can place their hand on a Bible or some other holy book and then pledge to follow the laws of the land and uphold the U.S. Constitution.
I now shall refer to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2015 ruled that the equal protection clause of the Constitution guarantees the right of gay couples to marry. That means, if I understand this correctly, that gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states, which would require county clerks to perform the duties of their public office.
SB 522 now allows county clerks and judges to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Sure, they can cite their own religious objection. Existing state law, though, already allows them to step aside and hand the marriage license issuance duty to someone else.
Which brings me back to my original question: Why is the Texas Senate enacting legislation for which there is no need?