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Marriage Equality

Texas Attorney General Insists Clerks Wait to Issue Marriage Licenses

Texas Attorney General Insists Clerks Wait to Issue Marriage Licenses


Although clerks have indicated they would issue licenses within hours of a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, the state's top lawman says they should wait.

The Texas Attorney General and a conservative religious group are demanding that gung-ho clerks in some of the state's most populous counties -- who are prepared to issue marriage licenses within hours of a potential Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality -- wait for authorization.

Texas A.G. Ken Paxton said in a statement on Thursday, "I would recommend that all county clerks and justices of the peace wait for direction and clarity from this office about the meaning of the court's opinion and the rights of Texans under the law."

County clerks in Dallas, Travis, and Bexar counties have indicated they will be ready to issue licenses to same-sex couples within a couple of hours of a positive Supreme Court ruling. Tarrant County clerk Marie Louise Garcia has said she will seek guidance from Paxton's office but she expected "no unnecessary delay." The Harris County clerk also plans to seek guidance from the Attorney General's office.

Dallas is particularly prepared for a ruling in favor of marriage equality. County Clerk John Warren, a Democrat, has said his office will be able to issue licences within 90 minutes after the ruling. The office will remain open an extra two hours every weekday for the next month to handle the expected surge in license requests.

Warren's office will assign extra staffers to issue licences as needed and all 13 civil court judges are prepared to grant waivers to the state's mandatory 72-hour waiting period and start performing wedding ceremonies immediately. Six family court judges have also indicated they would perform marriages if needed.

Rob DeGroot, chief of security for Dallas County, told the Dallas Morning News that he will increase security around the building. He has consulted with the Dallas Police Department and sheriff's office to ensure extra personnel will be on duty as marriage ceremonies begin.

"While there may be protests, we don't really anticipate that they would be particularly violent or aggressive," he told the newspaper. "But hope for the best, plan for the worst, as the saying goes."

The head of Texas Values, Jonathan Saenz, sent a letter to the Dallas and San Antonio clerks insisting that issuing licenses would be illegal no matter the Supreme Court's ruling, unless the state's top law man gives them his blessing. He wrote that state law requires clerks to use an unaltered form to record the marriages and changing the form to remove references to "man" and "woman" would be in violation of the law.

"Your proposed course of action is a criminal offense and the Supreme Court's ruling cannot shield you from criminal liability," Saenz wrote. "It appears you believe that a Supreme Court decision in favor of redefining marriage would allow you to disregard state law. Instead of taking the law into your own hands, we encourage you to follow the direction and/or recommendations of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on this issue."

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