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Religious Tolerance logo

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage (aka gay
marriage) across the U.S. in its ruling of The Obergefell v. Hodges
case from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.

Part 47: 2015-JULY:
2015-JULY: Same-sex couples' marriage
license problems in North Dakota & Texas.
Gender-neutral terms in marriage laws.
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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
site harder to find.
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.
"LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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U.S. map with North Dakota highlighted North Dakota: 2015-JUL-07: Stark County Recorder has a problem issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples:

Tom Henning is the State's Attorney for Stark County ND. He discussed with the county commissioners a concern that County Recorder Kathy Schwab has concerning the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He said:

"Ms. Schwab has personal, deep-seated beliefs that she says really interfere with her ability to do that kind of thing. She's asking that the board exercises authority to appoint a substitute official in instances of applications for marriage licenses for same-sex marriages."

He recommended that the deputy recorder, Kim Kasian, be selected to handle applications from same-sex couples. Ms. Schwab would then continue to handle applications from opposite-sex couples. Ms. Kasian is agreeable to this arrangement.

Commissioner Ken Zander said that they had to have a system in place to make marriage licenses available for all couples. He said:

"The law is the law. "We don't make it, but we're subject to enforcing it."

The commissioners voted and agreed to the proposal. 1

We suspect that this type of arrangement -- whether formal or informal -- is in place in many courthouses across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires all qualified same-sex couples to be able to obtain a marriage license, but they do not necessarily have to receive it from any specific county employee.

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U.S. map with Texas highlighted Texas: 2015-JUN-29 to JUL-07: Gay couple experiences problems trying to obtain marriage license in Hood County:

After the U.S. Supreme Court issued their ruling in Obergefell on JUN-26, the official web site of the Hood County Clerk initially said that the office would not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On JUN-30, that web site was updated to say:

"... as soon as the appropriate forms have been printed and supplied to my office, the .... Office will have staff available and be ready to issue same-sex marriage licenses,"

Katie Lang, a clerk in Hood County, TX refused to issue a marriage license to Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton on JUN-29. The are a gay couple who had been together for 27 years. When they applied, Ms. Lang refused to serve them, presumably for religious reasons. However, she said that another person in the office would handle their request. Then, they were told that they would have to wait "three or more weeks" before the office would have the updated marriage license forms. The only ones in stock had columns labeled "bride" and "groom."

The couple obtained an blank updated license form. It has two columns labeled "Applicant 1" and "Applicant 2." On JUL-02, they again asked an employee of the Hood County Clerk's office to issue it to them. They were refused again. When they insisted, Ms. Lang told everyone to leave the office and contacted the Sheriff's Department. About six deputy sheriffs arrived at the office. The couple's lawyer later came to the office and warned that they would file a lawsuit if a license wasn't issued. They still didn't receive their license.

On JUL-06, the Cato and Stapleton filed a lawsuit in federal District Court in Fort Worth, TX, naming Katie Lang in her official capacity as Hood County clerk as defendant. 2 They asked that the bond be waived or set at a nominal amount like $10 in order to not impose a financial burden on the Defendant. They asked that the Court issue a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction requiring clerk Lang and fellow employees to follow the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, accept the plaintiff's $83.00 fee, accept their application, and issue a marriage license to them. 3

A few hours later, the couple received their license.

Clerk Katie Lang posed a statement on her web site saying:

"The religious doctrines to which I adhere compel me to personally refrain from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Nonetheless, in addition to the county clerk offices in the several surrounding counties, as soon as the appropriate forms have been printed and supplied to my office, the County Clerk’s Office of Hood County will have staff available and ready to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Because some have misreported and misconstrued my prior statements, I want to make clear that the County Clerk’s Office of Hood County will comply with the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.

I am grateful that the First Amendment continues to protect the sincerely held religious beliefs of public servants like me. That has not changed since last Friday. As Justice Kennedy stated,

'it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned'." 4

She may be confusing her religious freedom as an individual and her obligations as an employee of the County.

  • The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees all citizens freedom of religious speech. As an individual, she has complete freedom to advocate that marriages be limited to one woman and one man.

  • Her oath of office requires her to obey the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. As an employee of the County she has the obligation to supply marriage licenses to any couple who is qualified to be married. [They are qualified because they are old enough and not closely related.]

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2015-JUL-09: Cleaning up language in past federal marriage-related legislation:

There are probably hundreds of federal laws involving marriage that refer to "husbands" and "wives." Their bills became law in the past at a time when marriages consisted only of unions of one woman and one man. However, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples can marry anywhere in the U.S. these laws look anachronistic.

The Washington Examiner states that Rep. Louis Capps (D) has filed a bill with more than two dozen Democrat co-sponsors. It would update these laws to replace gendered terms like "husband" and "wife" with gender-neutral trems like "spouse" or "married couple." She said:

"The Amend the Code for Marriage Equality Act recognizes that the words in our laws have meaning and can continue to reflect prejudice and discrimination even when rendered null by our highest courts. Our values as a country are reflected in our laws. I authored this bill because it is imperative that our federal code reflect the equality of all marriages."

One example is a law that says it is illegal to threaten the president's wife. This law may be an important one to update in case the next or future president is a woman.

Apparently the Washington Examiner does not approve of these changes because it titled its article: "Dems declare wa on words 'husband,' 'wife'." 9

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Andrew Wernette, "ND county recorder refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses," Inforum, 2015-JUL-07, at: http://www.inforum.com/
  2. "James (Jim) Cato and Jody (Joe) Stapleton Lawsuit Against Katie Lang," Scribd, 2015-JUL-06, at: http://www.scribd.com/
  3. Zack Ford, "This Is What Happens To Court Clerks Who Refuse To Issue Same Sex Marriage Licenses," Think Progress, 2015-JUL-07, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
  4. "Statement of Katie Lang," Hood County Texas, undated, at: https://www.co.hood.tx.us/
  5. Pete Kasperowicz, "Dems declare war on words 'husband,' 'wife'," Washington Examiner, 2015-JUL-09, at: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/
  6. "Defense of Marriage Act," Wikipedia, as on 2015-JUL-02, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  7. Dan Van Winkle, "Federal Spousal Benefits Now Guaranteed to All Same-Sex Couples to Match Supreme Court Ruling," The Mary Sue, 2015-JUL-09, at: http://www.themarysue.com/
  8. Federal marriage benefits are now available for same-sex couples across the country," The Verge, 2015-JUL-09, at: http://www.theverge.com/
  9. Pete Kasperowicz, "Dems declare war on words 'husband,' 'wife'," Washington Examiner, 2015-JUL-09, at: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/

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How you may have arrived here:

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-JUL-07
Latest update: 2015-JUL-12
Author: - Robinson
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