Gay Marriage Issue Roils Texas Town

     GRANBURY, Texas (CN) – Days after a Texas county clerk reversed her decision to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses because of her religion, protesters demanded her resignation, citing a three-week delay in getting new forms.
     Hood County Clerk Katie Lang refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26. The 5-4 ruling struck down state bans on same-sex marriage and made it legal nationwide.
     Hood County is southwest of Tarrant and Dallas counties. Its county seat, Granbury, is about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth. A popular vacation town on the outskirts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Granbury has become an unlikely focal point in the national gay rights debate.
     Lang said Tuesday morning she would not comply with the ruling until a court told her she was breaking the law, which she called a “ newly invented ” constitutional right to gay marriage.
     She cited a nonbinding opinion Attorney General Ken Paxton issued on Sunday, June 28, saying county clerks and justices of the peace need not issue licenses or perform same-sex marriages if they have personal religious objections.
     The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas criticized Paxton’s letter.
     “Were they to follow his advice, local officials would be violating the law,” the ACLU said Thursday.
     Paxton’s letter noted, however, that the officials could face lawsuits from applicants if they did so. At least one such Texas lawsuit immediately followed.
     Lang changed her mind Tuesday night and said her office would issue same-sex marriage licenses – but she would not do so herself.
     “The religious doctrines to which I adhere compel me to personally refrain from issuing same-sex marriage licenses,” Lang said. “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.”
     Then Lang’s office said it would take up to three weeks for the updated marriage applications to arrive – an excuse protesters and at least one attorney called bogus.
     Dozens of protesters demonstrated peacefully outside the Hood County Courthouse in downtown Granbury Thursday morning. Several carried American and Rainbow flags and gay pride signs.
     Protesters Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton told NBC-affiliate KXAS they want to be married in Hood County and accused Lang of stalling. They said they are considering a lawsuit after being turned away by Lang’s office.
     Their attorney Austin Kaplan told The Dallas Morning News his clients would either get married on Thursday “or Hood County gets a lawsuit” on Monday.
     “This is just a pretext to deny them of their constitutional right to get married,” Kaplan said. “This is a humiliation. And this is what the Supreme Court says can’t happen anymore.”
     The couple’s co-counsel Jan Soifer told the Morning News his clients would prefer not to sue, but there are questions about Lang’s sincerity.
     “After she changed her tune Tuesday, my clients gave her a day and waited till this morning to get their license,” Soifer said. “They said, ‘No, no, no, it will take three weeks.’ They said, ‘We’re not ready to do it; we don’t have the forms ready.’ We sent them the link to the website with the form they are supposed to use. It’s posted. It’s available to them. We know 205 other counties in Texas have already been issuing them.”
     Other protesters criticized Lang for not performing the job she swore to perform under oath, saying that issuing marriage licenses is her duty.
     Several dozen counter-protesters stood in the town square, waving American flags and signs touting religious freedom. They said no employee in Lang’s office should be forced to issue same-sex marriage licenses if they object for religious reasons.
     Granbury, pop. 8,800, is 84 percent white, according to city-data.com.
     Its predominant religion is Southern Baptist, accounting for 50 percent of the town population.
     Its median household income of $45,339 is 10.5 percent below the statewide median of $50,740. One-half of 1 percent of its households self-reported as gay or lesbian, according to city-data.

%d bloggers like this: