A county clerk in Texas is refusing to issue gay marriage licenses, and pretending like she has a good reason. Denton County Clerk Juli Luke issued two statements today, the first saying that she’s refusing to issue the licenses because state law now conflicts with federal law, and the second claiming that actually it’s a “vendor issue.” Right. Rightrightrightrightright.
Texas has always had a little trouble with the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution—the one that says federal law supersedes state law—and today is no different. Here are Luke’s two statements, via North Texas Daily, the University of North Texas’ student paper:
I took an oath to uphold the laws of Texas and the United States. It appears this decision now places our great state in a position where our state contradicts federal law. Based on this new conflict, I will be deferring to my legal counsel, District Attorney Paul Johnson, for guidance.
And the second statement, a few hours later:
I have no intention of defying today’s Supreme Court decision. The requirements on the application for a marriage license are both specific and state mandated. The application and license currently used by Denton County are generated by our software vendor. As previously stated, i took an oath to uphold the law and Section 2.012 of the Family Code states that it is a criminal offense not to comply with this subchapter.
I have asked for additional clarification from the District Attorney’s office and I am awaiting their response to assist in speeding the process.
Essentially, I feel a responsibility to take the time to ensure these licenses are issued properly and legally so that they are valid.
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And then this, also posted on a door to the office:
Yes. Certainly it’s all vendor issue, and Juli Luke being a conservative Republican has nothing whatsoever to do with it. That’s definitely it. The vendor thing, or whatever.
Elsewhere in Texas, both Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are running their tiny lil feet off trying to figure out a way to not have to comply with federal law. Abbott issued a memo to all state agencies this afternoon, directing them to protect their employees’ religious liberties, i.e., let them decline to give out same-sex marriage licenses and say it’s a religious thing:
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 Act. All state agency heads should ensure that no June 26, 2015 Page 2 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. 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.
Paxton, meanwhile, also called it an issue of religious liberty, issuing a lengthy statement saying that he’ll always believe marriage is between one man and one woman and no mean liberals can make him think otherwise:
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.
“We start by recognizing the primacy and importance of our first freedom – religious liberty. 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. 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.
Many Texas county clerks are ignoring Paxton’s implicit call to ignore the SCOTUS ruling and refuse to issue license. Jack Evans and George Harris have been together 55 years, and here they are, at long last, being married this morning in Dallas County:
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Lupe Garcia, left, hugs her partner Cindy Stocking, right, at the Travis County building in Austin after hearing the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. Image via AP.