The June 26 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges should peaceably coexist alongside the rights to free exercise of religion and speech, said Ken Paxton, attorney general of Texas. Hence, county clerks and their employees may deny giving marriage license to gay couples on virtue of religious freedom.
Louisiana attorney general, Buddy Caldwell, spoke of the same opinion and said his office will not enforce the decision immediately. Other religious lawmakers across states have sung the same tune.
A lawless ruling
The Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage across states is a lawless ruling, according to Paxton. He described the ruling as a “newly invented federal constitutional right” granted to same-sex marriage. He noted that the verdict contained nothing that 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. Hence, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas issued an injunction against the enforcement of Texas marriage laws that define marriage as one man and one woman and therefore those laws currently are joined from being enforced by county clerks and justices of peace.
With this, Paxton said that county clerks and their employees may “retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses.”
“Justices of the peace and judges similarly retain religious freedoms, and may claim that the government cannot force them to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies over their religious objections, when other authorized individuals have no objection, because it is not the least restrictive means of the government ensuring the ceremonies occur. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case,” Paxton said in a statement.
Paxton recognized the possibility that clerks who will impose religious objections and choose not to issue licenses may face litigation and/or a fine. However, “numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs, in many cases on a pro-bono basis, and I will do everything I can from this office to be a public voice for those standing in defense of their rights,” the attorney general said.
Paxton called for Texas to speak with one voice against “this lawlessness.” He appealed for all Texans to protect religious liberties in the state and help their county clerks to defend their religious beliefs against the June 26 Supreme Court ruling.
Supreme Court ruling will not immediately be in effect in Louisiana
The attorney general’s office in Louisiana found nothing in the June 26 decision that made the verdict effective immediately, Caldwell said in a statement. Therefore, there is not yet a legal requirement for officials to issue marriage licenses or perform marriages for same-sex couples in Louisiana, the statement reads.
“This Supreme Court decision overturns the will of the people of Louisiana, and it takes away a right that should have been left to the states. Louisiana voters decided overwhelmingly to place in our constitution an amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. It fails to respect traditional marriage as defined by Louisiana voters, and is yet another example of the federal government intrusion into what should be a state issue.” Caldwell said.
Gov Phil Bryant, Gov Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn all decried the decision, The Clarion-Ledger reported. Rep Steven Palazzo said the decision “tears at the very fabric of democracy” while senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran said the ruling may result to discrimination against the people or organizations that will reject the same sex marriage.
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