Same-sex ruling 'lawless' - Texas attorney general

2015-06-29 14:08

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Lubbock - Texas's conservative Republican attorney general called the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry a "lawless ruling" and said state workers can cite their religious objections in denying marriage licenses.

Ken Paxton warned in a statement on Sunday that any clerk, justice of the peace or other administrator who declines to issue a license to a same-sex couple could face litigation or a fine.

But in the nonbinding legal opinion requested by Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Paxton says "numerous lawyers" stand ready to defend, free of charge, any public official refusing to grant one.

In its 5-4 opinion on Friday, the Supreme Court did nothing to eliminate rights of religious liberty, Paxton's opinion states.

"This newly minted federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage can and should peaceably coexist with longstanding constitutional and statutory rights, including the rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of speech," the AG wrote.

Religious beliefs

While many Republicans have said they disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling, officials in most states have said that they will abide by it. Paxton's comments echoed those of Governor Greg Abbott on Friday, who said Texans can't be forced by the court ruling to act contrary to their religious beliefs.

In his two-page memo, Abbott ordered agency leaders that no one in their ranks could take "adverse action" against someone acting on their religious beliefs, including "granting or denying benefits." That led to early confusion and questions over whether state agencies might deny health or retirement benefits to the spouses of gay employees.

Abbott spokesperson John Wittman later issued a clarifying statement on Friday, saying the directive doesn't order the denial of benefits to same-sex couples.

Texas was not part of the case before the Supreme Court. A federal judge in 2013 ruled that the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional but declined to enforce the ruling while it was on appeal.

Since Friday's ruling, a federal district court in Texas has prohibited Texas from enforcing state laws that define marriage as exclusively a union between one man and one woman.

Read more on:    us  |  gay rights

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