In the wake of Friday’s Supreme Court decision that renders laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman unconstitutionally invalid counties across Texas are having to prepare to issue same sex marriage licenses for the first time.
The Court said in its opinion that, “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.”
According to a press release issued by Bowie County Clerk Tina Petty, “Bowie County intends to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling, but must receive appropriate guidance from the State of Texas to insure we comply with both the spirit and procedural requirements of the law and the Supreme Court’s ruling.”
“Currently existing statutory law mandates the specific forms our office must use and we await direction from the State of Texas,” said Petty.” “Until that direction is received, my office cannot issue a marriage license to same-sex couples.”
According to Petty, “It is my understanding that the parties to a Supreme Court ruling have three weeks to request a reconsideration or rehearing. Further the Texas Attorney General has asked that County Clerks wait for direction and clarity from his office.”
Travis County meanwhile is one of the few counties in the state to start issuing same sex marriage licenses early Friday morning.
“Because of the ruling, the Travis County Clerk’s office will begin to issue marriage licenses to same gender couples at 10:30 AM on June 26,” said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. “This is a joyous day, I am delighted for all couples who wish to be legally married in Texas.”
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued the following memorandum.
The purpose of this memorandum is to advise officials of the State of Arkansas and government officials of Arkansas counties, Arkansas municipalities, and others regarding the same-sex marriage ruling today by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell, James, et al. v. Hodges, Richard, et al. (U.S. Supreme Court No. 14-556, June 26, 2015).
At the outset, it should be noted that the U.S. Supreme Court directive applies only to government agencies and officials, and civil marriage recognized by the government and does not compel religious institutions or clergy to recognize same-sex marriage. The opinion specifically notes that “[t]he First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. ” Id., slip opinion at *27.
The fundamental governing principle to ensure compliance by government officials and government entities with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling is: same-sex couples should be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex couples in matters regarding civil marriage and the attendant rights, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage. State and local officials must immediately recognize the validity of same-sex marriage licenses issued by Arkansas and same-sex marriage licenses issued by other states, just as state and local officials recognize the validity of opposite-sex marriage licenses issued by Arkansas and other states. Arkansas officials should recognize the validity of same-sex marriage licenses issued in other states both before and after the Supreme Court ruling.
Arkansas county clerks should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples upon request, requiring exactly the same procedures, fees, and other requirements as required for opposite-sex couples. Government agencies which provide privileges and benefits to married couples or spouses of married individuals should provide the same privileges and benefits to married same-sex couples and same-sex spouses of married individuals. For example, the state tax authorities should allow same-sex married couples to submit joint tax returns if those couples choose to do so, and should treat them exactly the same as opposite-sex couples who submit joint tax returns. Government employers that allow spouses of married employees to enroll in employee benefits programs such as health insurance should allow same-sex spouses of employees to enroll in employee benefits programs, exactly as they allow opposite-sex spouses of employees to enroll in employee benefits programs.
Again, the Supreme Court decision applies only to government entities, and civil marriage recognized by States and government and does not compel religious institutions, clergy, or private individuals to recognize same-sex marriage.