Friday, July 3, 2015

Second-class citizenship in one small Texas town depicts a more widespread problem for gays


On Friday, June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court announced its landmark marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. On that same day in Granbury, Texas (population 8,800), Hood County Clerk Katie Lang refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses. The following Tuesday Lang announced that she would not comply with the ruling until a court told her that she was violating the law. She called the Supreme Court decision “a newly invented right.”

Lang also cited a memorandum from Attorney General Ken Paxton that was issued on Sunday, June 28. According to Paxton, county clerks and justices of the peace were not obligated to issue licenses or perform same-sex marriages if they have personal religious objections. At the same time the memo noted that clerks who did not issue licenses could be subject to lawsuits. Attorneys with the ACLU advised that anyone following Paxton's advice would be breaking the law.

Another “newly invented right” would be that of a civil servant to deny her services to a minority group that she disapproves of. Once again we must ask whether this woman has a sincere religious problem (in which case she should resign) or if she is trying to demonstrate her disapproval (in which case that same AG should be filing charges against her).

On Tuesday night, Ms. Lang changed her mind. She issued another statement:
The religious doctrines to which I adhere compel me to personally refrain from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Nonetheless, in addition to the county clerk offices in the several surrounding counties, as soon as the appropriate forms have been printed and supplied to my office, the County Clerk's Office of Hood County will have staff available and ready to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
Then she added that it would take about three weeks to get the paperwork that would permit her office to issue the marriage licenses. Another “newly invented right” would be the expectation that citizens will accept that kind of excuse.

According to Jan Soifer, an attorney representing one of the frustrated couples:
After she changed her tune Tuesday, my clients gave her a day and waited till this morning to get their license. They said, 'No, no, no, it will take three weeks.' They said, 'We're not ready to do it; we don't have the forms ready.' We sent them the link to the website with the form they are supposed to use. It's posted. It's available to them. We know 205 other counties in Texas have already been issuing them.
Presumably my reaction — shouting “Oh bullshit!” would not be a very good idea. Or would it? In addition to several lawsuits, a peaceful protest is underway. At the same time several dozen counter-protesters were waving American flags and signs touting religious freedom. Another “newly invented right” …

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