Throughout Texas, officials are refusing to perform weddings altogether, to stave off discrimination lawsuits for turning away same-sex couples.
Across the state, local media outlets are reporting that justices of the peace are taking Attorney General Ken Paxton’s words to heart, citing “religious objections” to avoid marrying anyone at all.
In a statement to KLTV, James Meredith, a justice of the peace in Smith County, writes, “I will no longer perform weddings after I conduct the few weddings I already had scheduled before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.”
Colleague Paula Dyke in Titus County tells the local news outlet that, “A Justice of the Peace has no obligation under Texas law, or any other law, to perform wedding ceremonies. Marriage ceremonies are not a statutory duty. Upon announcement of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2014 [sic], I have decided to immediately stop performing ALL marriage ceremonies. God Bless America, and America Bless God!”
Theresa Goodness, chief deputy for the county clerk in Jefferson County, tells 12 News her office keeps a list of available wedding ceremony officiants for interested couples, and that three officials have asked that their names be taken off the list. Judges Ken Dollinger, Brad Burnett, and Ray Chesson, 12 News reports, refuse to perform weddings for anyone now — regardless of sexual orientation.
Other justices of the peace in Texas who have opted out of wedding duties in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to guarantee marriage rights regardless of a couple’s gender composition include: Jeff Monk of Johnson County, who professes to have a “strong faith in Christianity;” Jim Hanson of Lubbock County; and Don Engleking and Ted Duffield of Bell County.
In some parts of Texas, entire counties are just refusing to offer marriage licenses or publicly officiated weddings at all.
The county clerk in Tom Green County has released a statement that no one in the office will be issuing marriage licenses anymore. “We are not currently issuing a marriage license to persons of the same sex at this time,” says the statement. Deaf Smith County has also announced a moratorium on wedding ceremonies.
State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) has written to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking the Justice Department monitor the widespread refusal by Texas officials to accept same-sex marriage as a matter of law.
In a letter dated June 29, Ellis expresses concern about potential civil rights violations:
Ellis challenges the legal validity of “personal religious beliefs” as an excuse for public officials to effectively do whatever they want while on the public dime:
The Texas Democrat closes with a plea for all Texans to receive “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”