Well, it turns out Texas’s county courthouses aren’t occupied by defiant rebels intent on ignoring state and federal law.
According to the Texas Tribune, most county clerks — and I presume that to mean more than 127 of them — are going to comply with a Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage across the nation.
Those who don’t will face lawsuits from couples seeking marriage licenses.
I was intrigued by the story that included statements from way up yonder, in tiny Roberts County, that officials there will issue licenses to same-sex couples when they apply for them.
Randall and Potter clerks said from the outset of the ruling that they would issue the licenses, even though Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton decreed it was all right with him if counties declined to do so.
The Tribune reports: “Hartley County Clerk Melissa Mead said her office won’t issue same-sex marriage licenses until the clock runs out on the 25 days that parties in the Supreme Court case have to ask for a rehearing of the case.”
A handful of the state’s 254 counties are bucking the highest court in the land — not to mention ignoring the oath that county clerks take that require them to uphold federal law.
A handful of clerks in other states have declined to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — and have resigned their public offices in protest. I’m OK with those who quit rather than flout their oath. Those who resign are far more principled, in my view, than those who simply refuse to do their duty based on religious principles. Their oaths don’t allow for that, as I read the oath they all must take.
A friend posted this portion of a New York Times editorial on the subject:
“Some same-sex marriage opponents argue that under state religious-freedom laws, a government employee’s beliefs should be accommodated so long as another official is available to carry out the task. But government employees do not have a constitutionally protected right to pick and choose which members of the public they will serve, no matter their religious beliefs. Not so long ago, of course, government officials invoked religious beliefs to justify all manner of racial segregation and discrimination, including laws banning interracial marriage. The Supreme Court struck down that marriage ban in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia. It is impossible to imagine any county clerk or judge now claiming a right not to marry an interracial couple based on religious beliefs. And yet, that would be analogous to what these public employees are doing in refusing to serve same-sex couples. The Constitution’s protection of religious freedom simply does not include the right to discriminate against others in the public sphere.”
As I see it, there you have it.