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Marriage Equality

Marriage Equality, Texas Style

Marriage Equality, Texas Style


At least one county clerk quit, and a judge changed the rules for courthouse weddings, to voice their opposition to marriage equality.

Although marriage equality is the law of the land, a county clerk in East Texas and a judge near Dallas are taking steps to make their opposition known.

Rusk County Clerk Joyce Lewis-Kugle has filed her resignation, saying she'd rather quit than comply with last month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states, including Texas.

Rusk County commissioners are scheduled to vote tonight on the fate of Lewis-Kugle, who submitted her resignation letter Thursday. The top administrator for the country, Judge Joel Hale, told the Associated Press that Lewis-Kugle wrote that her conscience would not allow her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Hale said he expects commissioners will accept the resignation.

District Attorney Michael Jimerson told the AP that Lewis-Kugle asked what her options were, and he said he told her "the Supreme Court is the law of the land." He offered the clerk the choice of issuing licenses to same-sex couples or resigning.

Over in Denton County, northwest of Dallas, Judge James R. DePiazza has announced he'll "witness" same-sex weddings, but with several conditions that appear designed to insult gay couples, WFAA TV in Dallas reports.

DePiazza's website now carries the following warning:

"The Supreme Court of the United States' ruling on June 26, 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges has legalized marriage in all 50 States regardless of gender. The result of this ruling has not changed Judge DePiazza's personal convictions on marriage, but has changed the way he is now conducting ceremonies. Judge DePiazza will no longer be providing marriage ceremonies in the traditional manner. The ceremony will strictly be a witnessing to the declaration of marriage, presented by Judge DePiazza, by both parties under the laws of the State of Texas.
Judge DePiazza prefers to NOT conduct same-sex ceremonies, but will not decline anyone who chooses to schedule with him."

WFAA notes that all references to congratulations have been removed from the form couples must sign, and the form replaces the words "bride" and "groom" with a space for two signatures.

Another change, according to the judge's website, is that photography is now banned during ceremonies in Piazza's courtroom -- although couples can take pictures there after the ceremony.

And now, prior to every ceremony, every couple must also sign an acknowledgment, saying:

"While we many not necessarily agree with, we accept Judge DePiazza's position on same-sex marriages, accept the conditions expressed above and understand that there will be no discussion regarding his position before, during or after the ceremony."

Judge DePiazza told WFAA that he believes every human being deserves dignity and respect, whether he agrees with them or not, but he wanted to make his position known.

"It's my personal belief that individuals who want to conduct a marriage ceremony understand my convictions," said Judge DePiazza. "If it was me, I would prefer to have someone who was in agreement with me."

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