Texas work­ers can deny li­censes to same-sex cou­ples: AG


Texas’ con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can at­tor­ney gen­eral called the U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sion giv­ing same- sex cou­ples the right to marry a “law­less rul­ing” and said state work­ers can cite their re­li­gious ob­jec­tions in deny­ing mar­riage li­censes.

Ken Pax­ton warned in a state­ment Sun­day that any clerk, jus­tice of the peace or other ad­min­is­tra­tor who declines to is­sue a li­cense to a same-sex cou­ple could face lit­i­ga­tion or a fine.

But in the non­bind­ing le­gal opin­ion re­quested by Repub­li­can Lt. Gov. Dan Pa­trick, Pax­ton says “nu­mer­ous lawyers” stand ready to de­fend, free of charge, any public of­fi­cial re­fus­ing to grant one.

In its 5-4 opin­ion Fri­day, the Supreme Court did noth­ing to elim­i­nate rights of re­li­gious lib­erty, Pax­ton’s opin­ion states.

“This newly minted fed­eral con­sti­tu­tional right to same- sex mar­riage can and should peace- ably co­ex­ist with long­stand­ing con­sti­tu­tional and statu­tory rights, in­clud­ing the rights to free ex­er­cise of re­li­gion and free­dom of speech,” the AG wrote.

While many Repub­li­cans have said they dis­agreed with the Supreme Court rul­ing, of­fi­cials in most states have said that they will abide by it. Pax­ton’s com­ments echoed those Fri­day of Gov. Greg Ab­bott, who said Tex­ans can’t be forced by the court rul­ing to act con­trary to their reli- gious be­liefs.

In his two- page memo, Ab­bott or­dered agency lead­ers that no one in their ranks could take “ad­verse ac­tion” against some­one act­ing on their re­li­gious be­liefs, in­clud­ing “grant­ing or deny­ing ben­e­fits.” That led to early con­fu­sion and ques­tions over whether state agen­cies might deny health or re­tire­ment ben­e­fits to the spouses of gay em­ploy­ees.

Ab­bott spokesman John Wittman later is­sued a clar­i­fy­ing state­ment Fri­day, say­ing the di­rec­tive doesn’t or­der the de­nial of ben­e­fits to same-sex cou­ples.

Texas was not part of the case be­fore the Supreme Court. A fed­eral judge in 2013 ruled that the state’s ban on gay mar­riage was un­con­sti­tu­tional but de­clined to en­force the rul­ing while it was on ap­peal. Since Fri­day’s rul­ing, a fed­eral dis­trict court in Texas has pro­hib­ited Texas from en­forc­ing state laws that de­fine mar­riage as ex­clu­sively a union be­tween one man and one woman.

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