Tag Archives: Randall County clerk

Hats off to local county clerks

If I were wearing a hat at this moment, I’d tip it to two Texas county clerks: Randall County’s Renee Calhoun and Potter County’s Julie Smith.

All they did was agree to adhere to their oath of office and will issue marriage licenses to gay couples who seek them.

This is in accordance with a Supreme Court decision this past week that legalized gay marriage across the nation. It also resists the notion that they could refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples, which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton authorized them to do.

Given the extreme partisan divide across the land, it’s fair to make this point: Both women, Calhoun and Smith, are Republican county clerks. The state AG also is a Republican. They are defying the state’s attorney general, who contends that clerks could object if they had religious objections to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The two county clerks plan to issue the licenses as soon as they get some paperwork matters straightened out.

Good for them.

Paxton’s decision to allow the clerks to refuse issuing the licenses has met with mixed response from county clerks across the state.

The attorney general’s approach to this matter is wrong-headed, as it seeks to allow these elected officials to disavow the oath of office they took, which is to follow the laws of the nation and the state.

The Supreme Court has determined — as the final arbiter of what is constitutional and what is not — that state bans on same-sex marriage violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Thus, gay marriage is now legal.

Gay marriage may become campaign issue

Let’s play this out a few moves.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide whether states can ban same-sex marriage. R.G. Ratcliffe, writing for Texas Monthly, thinks the court is likely to rule that statewide bans violate the U.S. Constitution.

So, what happens when county clerks are forced to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Texas?

Do they follow the law? Or do they resign, as was the case over in Roosevelt County, N.M., when that state legalized same-sex marriages.


Suppose, then, that Randall County Clerk Renee Calhoun and Potter County Clerk Julie Smith decide to follow the law. Will they face a stout challenge — likely within the Republican Party, to which they both belong?

Does the gay marriage issue become a campaign wedge issue here in the Texas Panhandle’s two largest counties?

Texas voters some years ago approved a Texas constitutional amendment that reiterated what was already on the books. The state has a statute that declares that marriage must involve a man and a woman. But, by golly, the Legislature referred the amendment to the voters to ensure that they said “Hell yes!” to a ban on same-sex marriage.

I’m betting that Ratcliffe is correct, that the Supreme Court is going to make all of this moot when it rules that the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment cannot be violated.

I also am willing to bet that county clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples are going to face serious challenges in their next campaign for re-election.

Who would think a campaign for county clerk could be so, um, tumultuous?