Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Texas attorney general tells clerks: Refuse gay marriage on religious reasons if you want

The attorney general of Texas has issued an opinion giving clerks a legal path to deny gay couples their marriage licenses, saying in essence their religious objections trumps the U.S. Supreme Court.

The opinion would seem to set the stage for a state showdown with the federal government.

Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote: "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 oour resolve to protect religious liberty and return to democractic self-government in the face of judicial activists attempting to tell us how to live."

He the pointed to the "fundamental dilemma" the court's decision was raising, suggesting it was setting the rule of law and religious rights in its crosshairs.

"Now hundreds of Texas public officials are seeking guidance on how to implement what amounts to a lawless decision by an activist court while adhering both to their respective faiths and their responsibility to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution," he wrote.

Paxton made clear: "The reach of the court's opinion stops at the door of the First Amendment and our laws protecting religious liberty."

And therefore, he wrote: "County clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case."

He also said "justices of the peace and judges similarly retain religious freedoms and may claim that the government cannot force them to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies over their religious objections."

Paxton, however, acknowledged the price for exercising this religious freedom may be a fine.

"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," he wrote. "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."


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