Issue the License or We’ll Sue, Couple Says

      GRANBURY, Texas (CN) – A gay couple say they will sue a Texas county clerk today after she repeatedly refused to issue them a same-sex marriage license.
     Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton applied several times for a marriage license at the office of Hood County Clerk Katie Lang since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26 struck down state bans on same-sex marriage.
     Lang refused to comply with the ruling for several days, criticizing the Supreme Court, court on June 30 for “newly inventing ” a constitutional right to gay marriage.
     Lang cited a June 28 nonbinding opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton that urged county clerks and justices of the peace not to issue licenses or perform same-sex marriages if they have personal religious objections.
     Lang changed her mind hours later, saying other employees in her office would issue same-sex marriage licenses as soon as updated forms were received from the state.
     Cato and Stapleton said several gay couples have been turned away and were told it would at least three weeks for the new forms to arrive.
     Their attorneys Jan Soifer with O’Connell Soifer in Austin and Austin Kaplan in Austin warned Lang they will file a federal lawsuit against her Monday if she did not issue the men a license by July 2.
     “Our clients have been waiting over 27 years to marry. They have a constitutional right to obtain a marriage license in Hood County, where they reside, and there is no valid reason for them to have to wait ‘at least another three weeks,'” the attorneys wrote in a July 2 letter to the Hood County Clerk. “Every day that our clients must wait to be treated like other Texas couples causes them significant harm.”
     The attorneys said delay is unnecessary because an updated marriage license application has been posted by the Texas Department of State Health Services and is available immediately.
     “There is absolutely no valid reason for your office to delay three additional weeks or more to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” the letter states. “In fact, county clerks in Texas issued hundreds of such licenses the very day the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Obergefell, and have continued to issue hundreds, if not thousands, of such licenses since then.”
     Around 80 percent of Texas counties on June 30 were issuing same-sex marriage licenses or planning to make them available upon changes being made to software or physical certificates, according to advocacy groups Texas for Marriage and Equality Texas.
     Texas for Marriage state director Nick Hudson urged county clerks to issue same-sex marriage licenses because it is required under law.
     “Nearly 60 percent of Texas clerks are following the law by making marriage licenses available,” Hudson said in a statement. “We are encouraged by the swift implementation of the Supreme Court’s ruling by most counties, but we won’t stop pushing until every clerk in Texas complies with the law and makes licenses available to loving and committed gay and lesbian couples.”
     Hood County’s seat, Granbury, is about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth. A popular vacation town, Granbury has become an unlikely battleground in the national gay rights debate.

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