County clerk in Texas says right to same-sex marriage must "peaceably coexist" with other rights
Though Supreme Court cleared way for same-sex marriage, there are still spasms of resistance
Groom who got married to partner of 5 years in Louisiana: "It was beautiful, and I felt very loved"
The Hood County, Texas, clerk isn’t going to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she said Tuesday, because she has rights.
“I would like to issue a statement that I will not be issuing same-sex marriage licenses due to my religious convictions,” Katie Lang wrote in a statement posted on the county clerk’s website.
Though the Supreme Court ruled Friday that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, Lang said the Constitution also guarantees her freedom of religion.
It may sound like she’s flouting the high court’s ruling, but she has the backing of her state’s top law enforcement officer.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton lashed out after Friday’s ruling, calling the right to same-sex marriages “fabricated” and “newly invented” – language Lang parroted in her statement – and said judges “may claim that the government cannot force them to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies over their religious objections.”
If those judges are sued or fined, “numerous lawyers” stand willing to defend their rights, and “I will do everything I can as attorney general to be a public voice for those standing in defense of their religious beliefs,” Paxton said in a statement and on social media.
Leaning on Paxton’s guidance, Lang said Tuesday, “We find that although it fabricated a new constitutional right in 2015, the Supreme Court did not diminish, overrule, or call into question the First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion that formed the first freedom in the Bill of Rights in 1791.”
The right to same-sex marriage, she concluded, must “peaceably coexist” with other rights.
Lang later issued another statement, which made clear that although she won’t issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, her office will.
“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.
“Because some have misreported and misconstrued my prior statements, I want to make clear that the County Clerk’s Office of Hood County will comply with the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States,” she said.
Lang isn’t the only clerk with issues. Chris Jobe, president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that several counties – including Lawrence, where he is clerk – got out of the marriage license business altogether. Several clerks cited their religious objections to the Supreme Court ruling, he told the paper.
In Grenada County, Mississippi, Linda Barnette, the clerk of 24 years, resigned because “homosexuality is contrary to God’s plan and purpose for marriage and family,” according to CNN affiliate WCBI.
Mississippi’s governor and attorney general were none too happy with the Supreme Court’s decision, but they acknowledged that the law’s the law. Attorney General Jim Hood said his office “is certainly not standing in the way of the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Mississippi joined Texas as another state where there were spasms of resistance to the ruling. Most states where same-sex marriage was outlawed before Friday – including Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee – saw their governors or attorneys general promise to abide by the ruling, though many made it clear they didn’t care for it.
In Tennessee, where Gov. Bill Haslam and Attorney General Herbert Slatery III grudgingly said they would respect the decision, two state lawmakers promised to introduce the Pastor Protection Act, which would allow clergy to refuse to perform same-sex marriages and provide “legal protection from being forced to perform same-sex marriages on church property,” according to a news release.
“God is the ultimate Supreme Court and he has spoken. Marriage is between one man, and one woman,” state Rep. Andy Holt said.
Alabama, which saw same-sex marriage become the law of the land via a federal court decision earlier this year, put up perhaps the most vehement protest.
Gov. Robert Bentley said, “Regardless of today’s ruling by the Supreme Court, I still believe in a one man and one woman definition of marriage,” while the state’s Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus suspending same-sex marriages in Alabama for 25 days to give “parties” time to file motions “addressing” the ruling.
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell also initially put the nuptials on hold for 25 days, saying that nothing in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it effective immediately. On Sunday, however, Gov. Bobby Jindal, who declared “no earthly court” can alter the definition of marriage, told a television show that his state had no choice but to abide by the ruling.
Brant Rios and Eos Parish have been dating five years and experienced their state’s stubbornness firsthand Friday when they were the first couple to arrive at the Ouachita Parish Courthouse to be wed – and were the first to be turned away.
The pair had met up after work Friday afternoon to get married and were told they couldn’t fulfill their dream because of a local court’s stay.
“We felt betrayed,” Parish said.
They returned Monday and were told the clerk’s office was awaiting guidance from Caldwell, and the office didn’t have the correct forms anyway, Rios said.
That evening, on Facebook, a friend sent them a local newscast reporting that Ouachita Parish was issuing the licenses. The couple was elated and planned to meet at lunch Tuesday to exchange vows in a “down-and-dirty civil ceremony.” They would hold a proper reception for their friends and family members later, likely in September, they decided.
They could have waited to wed, of course, but after pondering their union for two years they decided to act quickly to “make sure no one could take this away from us,” Parish explained.
At 12:15 p.m., a friend who happens to be a justice of the peace pronounced them husband and husband. They sealed it with a “conservative kiss,” Parish said.
“I was very nervous leading up to everything, as any groom would be,” he said. “Once we started and we were going through the whole thing, looking into each other’s eyes and holding each other’s hands – OK, it’s for real – it was just surreal. It was beautiful, and I felt very loved.”
CNN’s Ryan Nobles, Jareen Imam and Alyssa Jackson contributed to this report.