Sunday, ahead of what should be the first full day of Texas County Clerks signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton gave cover to those officials whose personal religious dogma is more important to them than following the U.S. Constitution following Friday's Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
"Friday, the United States Supreme Court again ignored the text and spirit of the Constitution to manufacture a right that simply does not exist. In so doing, the Court weakened itself and weakened the rule of law, but did nothing to weaken our resolve to protect religious liberty and return to democratic self-government in the face of judicial activists attempting to tell us how to live.
Indeed, for those who respect the rule of law, this lawless ruling presents a fundamental dilemma: A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is considered the law of the land, but a judge-made edict that is not based in the law or the Constitution diminishes faith in our system of government and the rule of law," he said.
Paxton then encouraged county clerks, clerk employees, justices of the peace and county judges that they retain their "religious liberty" when it comes to issuing same-sex marriage licenses, although he did warn that any potential liability will depend on the particulars of each specific case.
"It is important to note that any clerk who wishes to defend their religious objections and who chooses not to issue licenses may well face litigation and/or a fine. But, numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs, in many cases on a pro-bono basis, and I will do everything I can from this office to be a public voice for those standing in defense of their rights," he said.
All Texans should support county and state officials who chose to operate their offices in open defiance of a final ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States, Paxton said.
Paxton's opinion came in response to a request from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick about "protecting religious liberty rights." Patrick said he doesn't care on which side of history he resides.
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"It has been said that those who oppose gay marriage are on the wrong side of history. I would rather be on the wrong side of history than on the wrong side of my faith and my beliefs. I believe I am not alone in that view in this country," he said.
Friday, many Texas counties — including Dallas, Harris, Bexar, Travis and El Paso — began issuing licenses. Some, however, did not. Denton County blamed a "vendor issue" for its turning away of multiple couples. Other counties — including Maverick, Ector, Victoria, Potter and Bastrop, according to reports — were waiting on guidance from Paxton before issuing any licenses to same-sex couples.
Now they have it: Follow the law, unless you really, really, don't want to.