DENTON, Texas (CN) – A Republican Texas judge is requiring same-sex couples to acknowledge his objection to marrying them, but he will perform a “civil” ceremony, so long as they don’t bring up the subject.
James DePiazza, Justice of the Peace for Precinct 2 in Denton County, had a form posted to the county website this month. It states that while the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage, it has not changed his “personal convictions” about marriage.
DePiazza will no longer perform weddings, but will perform “brief formal declaration of civil marriage” ceremonies.
“The ceremony will strictly be a witnessing to the individuals acknowledgement that they want to be married under the laws of this State and be bound to the marriage laws in the State of Texas,” the form states . “A declaration will be read by Judge DePiazza that both parties respond with affirmation. Judge DePiazza prefers to NOT conduct same-sex ceremonies, but will not decline anyone who chooses to schedule with him.”
The form requires marriage license applicants to agree to “not address the topic of same-sex marriages with Judge DePiazza before, during or after” the ceremony.
DePiazza told ABC-affiliate WFAA on Monday that if the terms of the acknowledgement form are broken, the ceremony will be stopped and a refund will be issued.
He said he has not performed any marriages since the Obergefell ruling because he has been on vacation, but his office has received inquiries from waiting couples.
DePiazza told the Dallas Observer that he could have refused to perform any ceremonies, but wanted to do what is best for his constituents.
“I went back in forth with it, and I made the decision that, for my constituents, if that is their desire – it doesn’t matter to me what a person’s sexual preference is, what their sexual orientation is,” he told the newspaper Monday. “Regardless, they’re a human being and they deserve dignity and respect. If that’s the way that they want to live their life, that’s between them, their partner and either they believe in their God or not, that’s their choice.”
The “brief” and “formal” declaration ceremonies allow DePiazza to perform his required official duties without compromising his personal beliefs, he said.
“One of the laws now in Texas is that same-sex couples can now get married. So, if they want me to sign as a witness on their marriage license, that goes nothing against my convictions,” DePiazza told the Observer. “That’s why I decided to change the vows, not just for same-sex couples but across the board. I would be very uncomfortable because of my convictions saying to somebody ‘I now pronounce you husband and husband or wife and wife.’ That would’ve been very difficult for me to do. To honor my authority as a justice of the peace to be a witness to somebody saying they want the rites of marriage in the state of Texas, that’s civil law and I have no issue with giving them that.”
DePiazza’s announcement came three days after Rusk County Clerk Joyce Lewis-Kugle submitted her resignation over her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses, in defiance of the Supreme Court .
And it came one week after Hood County Clerk Katie Lang was forced to issue a same-sex marriage license after a gay couple sued her in Fort Worth Federal Court, claiming they had been “ humiliated ” by her refusals.
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