HOUSTON – County clerks face legal perils if they fail to issue marriage licenses to eligible same-sex couples, stated the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas in letters sent to select county clerk offices in Texas today. The letters explain in detail the legal obligations of public officials following the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
“Religious liberty is the birthright of every American,” said Rebecca L. Robertson, legal & policy director of the ACLU of Texas. “But the first duty of public officials is to uphold the law, even if doing so conflicts with their personal religious convictions.”
In an opinion issued last Sunday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton suggested that county clerks with religious objections to same-sex marriages could avoid their duty and refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples. The ACLU of Texas’s letter warns clerks that doing so would constitute official misconduct and could lead to their removal from office and expose them to damages in civil litigation.
Attorney General Paxton’s position on religious refusals is out of step with the views of the majority of Texans, 79 percent of whom do not believe that religion should be used to discriminate, according to a recent poll by Texas Wins. Moreover, nearly 63 percent of likely voters in Texas would support a law protecting gay, lesbian and transgender Texans from discrimination.
The ACLU of Texas sent the letters to clerks in counties where residents have reported recalcitrance over issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.