Texas County Clerk Quits Over Gay Marriage

     HENDERSON, Texas (CN) – An East Texas county clerk has quit after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court.
     Rusk County Clerk Joyce Lewis-Kugle submitted a resignation letter on July 9, County Judge Joel Hale confirmed on Friday.
     Lewis-Kugle “felt like she couldn’t continue after the Supreme Court decision,” Hale told the Longview News-Journal.
     The Rusk County seat, Henderson, is about 140 miles east of Dallas.
     This is a separate case from Hood County , Texas, whose clerk was sued last week for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
     The Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges struck down state bans on same-sex marriage. Two days later, on a Sunday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told county clerks and judges they can refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses or perform marriage ceremonies if they have religious objections to it.
     That prompted a June 30 ethics complaint to the State Bar of Texas, accusing Paxton of violating rules of professional conduct by issuing the nonbinding opinion letter.
     Rusk County District Attorney Michael Jimerson last week told the Tyler Morning Telegraph that County Clerk Lewis-Kugle had asked him for guidance.
     “The Supreme Court is the law of the land,” Jimerson said he told her. “You can either resign in protest or issue the licenses.” He said he told her she could follow Paxton’s recommendation, but would likely be sued.
     Rusk County was one of a few Texas counties that refused to issue same-sex licenses despite the Supreme Court ruling, citing alleged software problems and the need for legal guidance. It will now issue same-sex marriage licenses, according to county clerk staff.
     “We are not [issuing] at this time,” Kugle-Lewis said on June 30. “I don’t think the state prepared us to be ready for this. [I feel] let down by our state officials.”
     The Rusk County Commissioners Court was to decide Monday whether to accept her resignation.
     County Judge Hale praised the integrity and work ethic of Lewis-Kugle, who was first elected in 2004.
     “I hate that it’s worked out this way because she is a great colleague and committed to her work serving the people of Rusk County,” he told the News-Journal. “We’ll all miss her.”
     Lewis-Kugle could not be reached for comment Saturday.
     A county judge in Texas is not a judicial officer, but the head of the County Commission.

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