County Clerk: Reasonable accommodations will be made for Deputy Clerks who oppose issuing marriage licenses
This morning, Bell County Clerk Shelley Coston’s office issued the first marriage license for a same sex marriage, following the June 26 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court making same sex marriage in all 50 states.
“In the last 48 hours, since the landmark ruling of the Supreme Court in favor of same sex marriages,” Coston said in an official statement released on the County Clerk’s department of the Bell County website, “my office has sought guidance on how this decision affects the duties of my office.”
Coston states that the County Clerk position is ministerial in its duties, performing functions “without the use of judgment by the person performing the act or duty.”
The Department of State Health Services – Vital Statistics Unit issued revised Marriage License application forms that replace “Male” and “Female” with the terms “Applicant 1 and Applicant 2”.
Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion that states that Justices of the Peace and Judges are not mandated to conduct same-sex ceremonies.
“However, there are no such alternatives as to who can issue a marriage license,” Coston said. “Only a County Clerk can do so.”
Situations in which county clerks refuse to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple could result in lawsuits against the county.
“The costs of defending such a lawsuit and the potential for damages would be substantial,” Coston stated. “I cannot do that to our taxpayers.”
“Under state law, Texas Family Code Section 2.008(a), states that County Clerks “shall” issue marriage licenses to conforming applications,” Coston added.
“Based on state law, revised forms from the Vital statistics Unit, and Attorney General Opinion KP-0025, the Bell County Clerk’s Office will issue marriage licenses to conforming applications, as now defined by the United States Supreme Court,” Coston stated. “Reasonable accommodations will be made for Deputy Clerks that have religious objections to participating in the issuance of such licenses.”