Texas Attorney General Says County Clerks Can Skip Same-Sex Marriages

Same-sex marriage is the law of the land. But, according to the state’s top attorney, not every county clerk has to perform those marriages, if they don’t want to. A constitutional law professor says there are ways that opinion could hold up, and ways that it could fall apart.


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Attorney General Ken Paxton writes, in a non-binding opinion, that county officials who don’t want to give a license to a gay couple because of religious objections don’t have to.

However, if the go-to person for marriage licenses in a county won’t deal with a same-sex marriage, there has to be somebody else around who will.

“So this would not allow a county clerk’s office, as a whole, to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses” said Charles “Rocky” Rhodes, a South Texas College of Law professor.

Attorney General Paxton is offering lawyers, who don’t work for the state but will work for free, to counties that are sued for not marrying gay couples. But any county that faces such a lawsuit will most certainly lose.

“And if the county clerk’s office continues to resist, it may be held in contempt, and could have to pay the challengers’ attorneys’ fees,” Professor Rhodes said.

But all of that hinges on a gay couple filing a legal challenge against the specific county that refuses to marry them. Rhodes said without that lawsuit, any county that won’t issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple can keep up that policy, as if the Supreme Court ruling never happened.


Attorney General Paxton’s full opinion:


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David Pitman

David Pitman

Host & Announcer

David was HPM's local Morning Edition host from 2009 to 2020 — when he was moved to the position of Technical Director of Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, and Town Square with Ernie Manouse. David has extensive public and commercial broadcast journalism and production experience dating back to 1993 –...

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