Bell County Clerk refuses to issue licenses to same-sex couples
Bell County Clerk Shelley Coston has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples today. An email is taped to the front of the clerk’s office windows in the Bell County Justice Complex that licenses will not be issued until the office receives legal guidance.
“In regards to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, the Bell County Clerk’s Office is awaiting direction from our legal counsel, the Department of State Health Service – Vital Statistics Unit and the Texas Attorney General before issuing such marriage licenses. Our office will continue present operations until directives are received by the State. We are expecting further information later today, June 26, 2015.”
Same sex couples have been turned back from the Bell County Clerk’s Office today as Government officials from the county, state and national level weigh in on the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling today in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.”
Before the ruling was made today, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick urged the Attorney General for Attorney General Paxton to provide guidance to county clerks and Justices of the Peace “who face this conflict of conscience.”
“In Texas, the law of the land defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This principle was adopted by over 76 percent of Texas voters in 2005,” Lt. Gov. Patrick stated at 7:40 a.m. today.
“This past session, the legislature passed protections for members of the clergy who could be pressured into performing marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” he added. “Similar First Amendment protections must be extended to others who might encounter similar pressure for same sex marriages.”
In a letter to Governor Gregg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow made the case for immediate action: “In order to be in full compliance with the law, we urge you to take immediate action to ensure that Judges or Justices of the Peace begin issuing marriage licenses to all eligible Texas couples immediately. Delaying the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples is not only unlawful, but allows the discriminatory impacts of an unconstitutional law to continue.”
Family law attorneys of Simsbury have noted that the Attorney General’s guidance to local county clerks has been short on guidance and deep in rhetoric: “But no court, no law, no rule, and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Nothing will change the importance of a mother and a father to the raising of a child. And nothing will change our collective resolve that all Americans should be able to exercise their faith in their daily lives without infringement and harassment.”
“The truth is that the debate over the issue of marriage has increasingly devolved into personal and economic aggression against people of faith who have sought to live their lives consistent with their sincerely-held religious beliefs about marriage,” Paxton continued in a statement today. “In numerous incidents trumpeted and celebrated by a sympathetic media, progressives advocating the anti-traditional marriage agenda have used this issue to publicly mock, deride, and intimidate devout individuals for daring to believe differently than they do. This ruling will likely only embolden those who seek to punish people who take personal, moral stands based upon their conscience and the teachings of their religion.”
“In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, the law’s promise of religious liberty will be tested by some who seek to silence and marginalize those whose conscience will not allow them to participate in or endorse marriages that are incompatible with their religious beliefs,” Governor Abbott stated.
“I expect all agencies under my direction to prioritize compliance with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Article I of the Texas Constitution, and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration one acting on behalf of their agency takes any adverse action against any person, as defined in Chapter 311 of the Texas Government Code, on account of the person’s act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by sincere religious belief,” he stated.
“This order applies to any agency decision, including but not limited to granting or denying benefits, managing agency employees, entering or enforcing agency contracts, licensing and permitting decisions, or enforcing state laws and regulations,” he stated.
“Try as they might, there is little that Ken Paxton or Greg Abbott can do today to quell the joy of so many Texans celebrating their constitutional right to marry,” said Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union *ACL) of Texas. “Religious liberty is a fundamental right protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn’t mean that government officials can use their personal religious beliefs to avoid following the law regarding marriage. Government officials who take an oath to uphold the law are required to treat all Texans equally, regardless of who they are or whom they love.”
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in writing the majority opinion, said that “by virtue of their exclusion from that institution (marriage), same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives.”
“Being married in one State but having that valid marriage denied in another is one of ‘the most perplexing and distressing complication[s]’ in the law of domestic relations,” Kennedy continued in the opinion, citing Williams v. North Carolina. “Leaving the current state of affairs in place would maintain and promote instability and uncertainty. For some couples, even an ordinary drive into a neighboring State to visit family or friends risks causing severe hardship in the event of a spouse’s hospitalization while across state lines. In light of the fact that many States already allow same-sex marriage—and hundreds of thousands of these marriages already have occurred—the disruption caused by the recognition bans is significant and ever-growing.”
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were,” Kennedy continues. “As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
In dissenting, Chief Justice John Roberts, in dissenting, wrote, “for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening. Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens—through the democratic process—to adopt their view. That ends today. Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in dissent: “We have no basis for striking down a practice that is not expressly prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment’s text, and that bears the endorsement of a long tradition of open, widespread, and unchallenged use dating back to the Amendment’s ratification. Since there is no doubt whatever that the People never decided to prohibit the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples, the public debate over same-sex marriage must be allowed to continue.”
Scalia adds that the ruling “is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote this in dissent: “In the American legal tradition, liberty libertyhashas long been understood as individual freedom from governmental action, not as a right to a particular governmental entitlement.”
“Receiving governmental recognition and benefits has nothing to do with any understanding of “liberty” that the Framers would have recognized,” Thomas stated,
Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.,Jr. says that the ruling is an attack upon deeply held religious beliefs: “I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”
U.S. Rep. John Carter, who represents Bell and Williamson Counties, said that the Supreme Court “redefined marriage, and paved the way for same sex marriage to be legal in all 50 states, regardless of law in those states, such as Texas.”
“I understand the need to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage,” rep. Carter stated. “I will continue to work with my colleagues to support, strengthen and protect this vital institution. I am a proud cosponsor of H.J. Res. 32, the Marriage Protection Amendment which defines marriage as consisting only of the union of a man and a woman. It prohibits either the U.S. Constitution or the constitution of any state from being construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon any other union.”
“I will also continue to fight for religious freedom for our clergy men and women, faith based institutions, and family business against any laws mandating they perform duties in violation of their religious beliefs,” he added.
He concluded: “Today’s ruling is just another example of why it is so important to support and elect conservatives to the White House and Senate, who have control over appointing and confirming justices to the Supreme Court.”
Voting in the majority were these Justices: Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Gader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Voting with the minority were these: Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
Justice Scalia is the longest-serving Justice on the Supreme Court. He was nominated to the court by President Ronald Reagan on June 24, 1986 and confirmed by a 96-0 vote of the Senate on Sept. 17, 1986. The Senate at that time was composed of 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans.
Justice Kennedy was nominated to the Supreme Court on Nov. 30 1987 by President Reagan and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 3, 1988 by a 97-0 vote from among 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans.
Justice Thomas was nominated by President George H.W. Bush on July 8, 1991 and confirmed by the Senate on a 52-48 vote on the Senate on Oct. 15, 1991. The Senate was composed of 56 Democrats and 44 Republicans.
Justice Ginsburg was nominated by President Bill Clinton on June 14 1993 and confirmed by a 96-3 vote of the Senate on Aug. 3 1993, the Senate at that time composed of 57 Democrats and 43 Republicans.
Justice Breyer was nominated by President Clinton on May 17, 1994 and confirmed by the Senate on July 29, 1994 by a vote of 87-9, the Senate composed of 57 Democrats and 43 Republicans.
Chief Justice Roberts was nominated by President George W. Bush on Sept. 6, 2005 and confirmed on Sept. 29, 2005 by a vote of 78-22, the Senate composed of 44 Democrats and 55 Republicans.
Justice Alito was nominated by President Bush on Nov. 10, 2005 and confirmed on Jan. 30, 2006 by a vote of 58-42, the Senate composed of 44 Democrats and 55 Republicans.
Justice Sotomayor was nominated on June 1, 2009 by President Barack Obama and confirmed on Aug. 6, 2009 by a vote of 68-31, the Senate composed of 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans and two independents.
Justice Kagan was nominated by President Obama on May 10, 2010 and confirmed by the Senate on a vote of 63-37 on Aug. 5, 2010, the Senate composed of 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans and two independents.