States Defy SCOTUS On Same-Sex Marriage

Photo: Eric Gay/AP Photo.
Marriage equality may be the law of the land, but at least some officials in Texas are determined to keep their opposition alive, and the state's top lawyer is giving them a hand.

This weekend, as couples streamed into courthouses nationwide, state Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a formal opinion maintaining that county clerks who didn't want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples are protected under Texas' religious-freedom law. According to the Austin Statesman, Paxton was responding to a request from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has also been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage.

“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,” Paxton said in his statement.

Religious-freedom laws, and whether they provide a license to discriminate, have been at the center of battles over same-sex marriage throughout the year. Both Indiana and Arkansas passed such bills amid controversy and protests; Paxton stated that “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.”

Texas was one of 13 states that still prohibited same-sex marriages before Friday's Supreme Court ruling. And, while officials in a few other states are also dragging their feet when it comes to complying with what is now settled law, Paxton's statement is the first serious act of resistance to progress.

Couples in Mississippi will have to wait a little bit longer before they can get legally married, thanks to a decision by that state's attorney general to wait until the 5th Circuit Court officially approves same-sex marriage. And, according to a report from Newsweek, the state might stop issuing all marriage licenses rather than give them to same-sex couples.

Of course, even in a state as conservative as Texas, there were plenty of counties that happily issued marriage licenses and played host to same-sex weddings over the weekend, with Jack Evans and George Harris becoming the first couple to get married in Dallas — after being together for 54 years.
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