What's Left In Texas' Same-Sex Marriage Fight

In Texas, at least, only two real skirmishes left in the battle to actually get the state's recalcitrant state officials and county bureaucracies to acknowledge the United States' new reality and issue marriage licenses to any couple who wants to get married. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, after initially feeling his dead-ender oats after the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage, has gone quiet, as has Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Hood County Clerk Katie Lang folded immediately after being sued by a Granbury gay couple after she refused to give them a marriage license (adding insult to Lang's injury, the suit is still ongoing). Rusk County Clerk Joyce Lewis-Kugle formally resigned Monday, as she said in her resignation letter, "due to the recent decision by the Supreme Court, the laws [she] swore to have now changed." 

So what's left? First, there's Irion County. But for one thing, Irion County would not be one of the most interesting places in Texas right now. The tiny West Texas county near San Angelo has fewer than 1,200 residents and no attractions to speak of. The one thing Irion County does have is its county clerk, Molly Crimer. Backed by the Liberty Counsel, the house law firm of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, Crimer got a bit out over her skis when she announced that she would zealously defy the Supreme Court.

"To keep my oath to uphold the Constitution, I must reject this ruling that I believe is lawless," Crimer said. "I have to stand for the Constitution and the rule of law."

With that, Crimer basically dared someone to sue her and, eventually, that's exactly what will happen.

"Molly Crimer went well beyond having any ministerial problem with issuing licenses. She went beyond that, to the point of saying that she is above the law, that her beliefs are above the Constitution," Glen Maxey, director of county affairs for the Texas Democratic Party, says. "If there's a county clerk that deserves to learn about federalism and the U.S. Constitution, it would be the clerk in Irion County.

So far, plaintiffs against Crimer have not stepped forward, but they will. When that happens, Crimer will go to court and lose. It's over but for the shouting.

The other squabble just started Monday.

State Representative David Simpson, the Republican from Longview who wants to legalize marijuana because "all that God created is good," is calling for a special session of the Legislature in order to keep as much state funding as possible out of the hands of newly married same-sex couples (loving, devoted same-sex couples apparently being the exceptions that prove the God created good rule)..

"There is no question that the appropriations made by the Texas Legislature did not include benefits for same-sex partners. In fact, such benefits have been intentionally prohibited by state law. The SCOTUS has the authority to decide a case, but it has no authority to appropriate state funds, and anyone who expends state funds without an appropriation is in violation of state law.

"According to contacts at both the Employee Retirement System and the Teacher Retirement System, the decision to fund benefits was made by the executive directors of the agencies after consultation with you. If that information is accurate, your acquiescence in this matter is derelict. The power of the purse rests with the legislature or during an interim with the public actions of the Legislative Budget Board," Simpson says in an open letter to Paxton, Patrick, Governor Greg Abbott and Speaker of the House Joe Strauss.

Simpson cites the refusal of the state of Texas to allow any state funding of abortion as precedent for the state to refuse benefits to gay couples.

Simpson's assertions are reminiscent of an attempt made early this year by Magnolia state Representative Cecil Bell to stop any county from using any state funds to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Democrats successfully ran out the clock on the legislative session before Bell's proposal was voted on.

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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