June 26, 2015

#GayMarriage in Texas: Is #GregAbbott going to play #GeorgeWallace?

I am of course referring to the late Alabama Gov. George Wallace and his famous 1963 inaugural statement, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

In light of today's Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, such a stance seems possible indeed.

Lite Gov Dan Patrick has already asked state AG Ken Paxton if county clerks can use an individual religious conscious claim to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians. (Survey says "no." Unlike pharmacists and birth control, each county has but one county clerk.)

And, our stellar, money-wasting governor, Greg Abbott, has already issued a press release hinting he might follow Patrick:
“Despite the Supreme Court’s rulings, Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains protected. No Texan is required by the Supreme Court’s decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage.

“The Texas Constitution guarantees that ‘[n]o human authority ought, in any case whatsoever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion.’ The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion; and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, combined with the newly enacted Pastor Protection Act, provide robust legal protections to Texans whose faith commands them to adhere to the traditional understanding of marriage.

“As I have done in the past, I will continue to defend the religious liberties of all Texans—including those whose conscience dictates that marriage is only the union of one man and one woman. Later today, I will be issuing a directive to state agencies instructing them to prioritize the protection of Texans’ religious liberties.”

He's being coy, yes, but he could be interpreted as agreeing with Patrick. Especially now that he's doubled down with a more official pronouncement saying department heads shouldn't pressure assistants under religious freedom. So, he's minimally saying that if one person in a county clerk's office doesn't want to issue a license to a gay or lesbian couple, the clerk shouldn't force him/her to do so. Let's see if he goes beyond that.

The big "tell" will be whether he adds anything to the "call" for a Texas Legislature special session.

Mark Phariss, a gay marriage plaintiff and law school classmate of Abbott, thinks he will NOT be Wallace.
Erm ... color me doubtful. Others, including a gay marriage plantiffs' lawyer, are also doubtful that Abbott will be this broad-minded.

Oh, and if you're a county clerk? Just like the blast I gave, both personally and professionally, to elected officials for considering unconstitutional action on Cecil Bell's proposed bill, you, too, have sworn an oath to "uphold the Constitution."

Do so.

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