The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage
across the U.S. in its ruling of The Obergefell v. Hodges
Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.
Part 42: 2015-JUNE-26:
Response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling
from the Deep South. Examples of opposition
ruling in Louisiana and Texas.
Personal conflicts faced by courthouse clerks.
We use the term "gay marriage."to represent the marriage of two persons of
the same sex.
We prefer "Same-sex marriage," a more inclusive term that
includes spouses with a bisexual sexual orientation, but it would make this web
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
"LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
2015-JUN-26: The U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling legalizing gay marriage across the entire United States:
- Directly involves marriages in only four states:
Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.
- Also applies to the other eight states elsewhere in the U.S. mainland that have had state-wide same-sex marriage bans in place:
Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana (shown in red above) , Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas.
- Changed the situation in one state:
Missouri. Previous to the ruling, marriage licenses were only available in the City of St. Louis and two adjoining counties. The ruling requires them to be available across the entire state.
- Also applies to:
Alabama where marriage licenses were available to same-sex couples but had dried up before the day of the ruling.
- Finally, it also applies to four of the five U.S. territories:
- in the Pacific: American Samoa and the Northern Mariana islands, and:
- in the Atlantic Ocean: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to USA Today, of the states that had a ban in place before the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage, Louisiana was the only state in which no marriage licenses had been issued to a same-sex couple on the day of the ruling. Of course, in some states, there may have been very few counties where such licenses were being issued -- perhaps only one. Some same-sex couples may not have been able to exercise their new equal rights.
2015-JUN-26: Shortly after the High Court's ruling on gay marriage on Friday:
- President Obama (D) tweeted:
"Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else." 6
U.S. Vice President Biden (D) tweeted about same-sex marriage:
"All marriages at their root are about love. In America, our laws now recognize that simple truth. Love wins today & we couldn't be prouder. 7
His message was retweeted 13,580 times.
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) tweeted:
"SCOTUS has become an unelected nine member legislature. I will continue to defend the religious liberties of TX." 6
["SCOTUS" is a commonly used acronym for the "Supreme Court of the United States."]
Also on JUN-26, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R) asked the Attorney General, Ken Paxton (R), for his opinion on whether courthouse clerks are required to issue marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples. (By "qualified" we mean that they are of a sufficient age, and are not too closely related. These are the same criteria that opposite-sex couples must meet).
Two days later, Texas Attorney General Paxton issued his response, saying:
"It is important to note that any clerk who wishes to defend their religious objections and who chooses not to issue licenses may well face litigation and/or a fine. But, numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs, in many cases on a pro-bono basis, and I will do everything I can from this office to be a public voice for those standing in defense of their rights." 1,2
A.G. Paxton also tweeted to his Twitter followers:
"Following SCOTUS flawed ruling, the next fight is religious liberty."
Apparently referring to the High Court's ruling, the Paxton said:
"Texas must speak with one voice against this lawlessness." 3
He is, of course, not referring to the traditional religious liberties of belief, assembly, speech, proselytizing, etc. These rights are not threatened because they are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He is referring to the religious liberty to discriminate against, oppress, or denigrate others in violation of the Golden Rule.
In those states and cities with human rights legislation or ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, public accommodations can be at risk of violating the laws or ordinances. Public accommodations are typically for-profit companies that sell goods and services to the general public. Many dozens of such companies in the marriage industry, including wedding cake bakers, marriage photographers, wedding venue renters, etc. have refused goods and/or services to same-sex couples. In a dozen or so cases across the country, the discriminated-against couples have laid changes with the city or state Human Rights tribunal and won. In all cases of which we are aware, the stores chose to discriminate against their potential customers because of the conservative Christian beliefs of the owner(s). This is presumably the religious liberty to which Paxton is referring.
2015-JUN-26 to 29: Juli Luke, Clerk of Denton County, TX, first refused then later issued same-sex marriage licences:
Ms. Luke initially refused to issue marriage licenses to two qualified same-sex couples on JUN-26. She wanted to obtain legal guidance from the Attorney General and needed time to update her office software. However, she changed her mind during the weekend and issued a statement on Sunday, JUN-28, saying:
"Personally, same-sex marriage is in contradiction to my faith and belief that marriage is [to be only allowed] between one man and one woman. However, first and foremost, I took an oath on my family Bible to uphold the law and as an elected public official my personal belief cannot prevent me from issuing the licenses as required." 8
The personal conflicts faced by courthouse clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples:
The scenario that played out in Denton County, TX, was probably occurring in hundreds of counties across the U.S.
A clerk's personal decision whether to respond positively to a same-sex couple's request for a marriage license is complex. They are being pulled in multiple directions simultaneously:
- Many have been taught by their faith group that God hates same-gender sexual behavior. Further, they believe that God will punish sexually active gays, lesbians, and bisexuals who engage in this behavior by sending them to the torture chambers of Hell after death where they will be punished for all eternity with no hope of any end to the pain. Clerks who believe this typically do not want to contribute to this tragedy.
- County clerks have all sworn an oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution which the High Court has now interpreted as requiring the issuing of marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples.
- Those clerks with religious objections to issuing licenses, probably have deeply held Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Sikh religious beliefs. All of these religions, and more, specify that their followers obey an Ethic of Reciprocity -- commonly called the "Golden Rule." Although religions express this Ethic using different words, they all command a believer to treat other persons as the believer would wish to be treated in return. For example, Jesus is recorded in the Gospels as instructing his followers:
- "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men
should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the
prophets." Matthew 7:12. 4
- "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to
them likewise." Luke 6:31 4
- If a clerk refuses to issue a marriage license to a gay couple who is qualified to receive one, then the clerk could be personally sued by the couple. The chance of being found guilty is close to 100%. The clerk would probably be assessed court costs, lawyer's costs, and a fine that could conceivably amount to tens of thousands of dollars. As the Attorney General says, they might find a lawyer to represent them at no cost. However, they would still have to pay the other charges.
Any state employee who issues marriage licenses in any U.S. state, territory, or district of the United States will have to consider carefully whether they are willing to violate their oath of office -- which includes a promise to uphold the federal Constitution -- and expose their personal budget to overwhelming costs.
Their decision may be complicated by the knowledge that many sincere, intelligent, and thoughtful liberal Christian theologians have studied the six anti-gay "clobber passages" in the Bible and have concluded that:
- The three passages in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) refer only to same-gender rape, or men having sex with male temple prostitutes or two men having sex on a woman's bed.
- The three passages in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) refer to persons with a heterosexual orientation engaging in same-gender sexual behavior against their basic nature in a pagan orgy, or is ambiguous, or refers to bestiality -- inter-species sex -- in Sodom.
These theologians see nothing in the Bible that forbids consensual, loving, same-gender sexual activity as might take place within a gay marriage.
Fortunately, there are ways around this problem. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling only requires that clerks provide marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples. It did not require any specific clerk to handle this task. A courthouse procedure could be developed in which one or more clerks -- those who have no objection to marriage equality -- would handle all the requests from same-sex couples seeking licenses. Meanwhile, the remaining clerks will refer such couples to one of the clerks who has no objection. This system would probably work in all but the smallest courthouses with minimal staff.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Paxton: County clerks can refuse to issue same-sex licenses," USA Today, 2015-JUN-29, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
- "Attorney General Ken Paxton: Following High Court’s Flawed Ruling, Next Fight is Religious Liberty," Office of the Texas Attorney General, 2015-JUN-26, at: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/
- Judd Legum, "Texas Attorney General Encourages County Clerks To Ignore Supreme Court, Turn Away Same-Sex Couples," Think Progress, 2015-JUN-28, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
- From the King James Version of the Bible.
- Michael Paulson, "With Same-Sex Decision, Evangelical Churches Address New Reality," The New York Times, 2015-JUN-28, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
- "Texas attorney general says judges can deny same-sex marriage licenses," USA Today, 2015-JUN-29, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
- Joe Biden, "All marriages at their root are about love" tweet, 2015-JUN-26, at: https://twitter.com/
How you may have arrived here:
Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-JUN-30
Latest update: 2015-JUL-05
Author: - Robinson