Ector County Clerk Linda Haney will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, opting not to take an out offered by Attorney General Ken Paxton for clerks who wish to deny such licenses due to religious beliefs. “I took an oath to uphold the law and I intend to follow the law,” Haney said, although the marriage licenses could not be issued early Monday morning because the new application was not yet available on the computer system.
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Her decision comes after the Friday ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that marriage is a Constitutional right for same-sex couples. Sunday, Paxton issued an opinion that clerks could deny licenses based on religious beliefs, just as justices of the peace could decline to perform the weddings based on religious beliefs. Haney, however, said she will follow the Supreme Court’s ruling and what she believes is the correct thing according to the law.
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“An act of civil disobedience on my part would not honor my God and I don’t want to put my county at liability either,” Haney said. “I do have strong religious convictions and anybody that knows me knows what those convictions are. But I did take an oath and I will follow the law.” Among the first people awaiting the county clerk’s office to open were Tracy and River Austin, who have been together for 13 years and have considered themselves married for 11 years.
Tracy Austin said the couple went to San Francisco in 2004 to get married, although that marriage was voided by the California Supreme Court later in the year. The couple went back again two years ago and remarried. “I want to do it in Ector County,” said River Austin, who is from Odessa. Tracy Austin said their families couldn’t make the trip to San Francisco, but getting a license in Ector County and having a wedding at a private residence in Texas will allow both of their families to join.
“This is where our family is,” Tracy Austin said. “This is where our people are.” Tracy Austin said she was nervous at first coming up to the county clerk’s office, unsure of how they would be received. But she said she was pleasantly surprised by how accommodating the clerk’s office was. “They asked for our input, which was very nice,” Tracy Austin said. “They didn’t have to do that.” Haney said that’s how she has instructed her office to work with all people, whether they are a same-sex couple or otherwise. “I want everybody to know that I’m a respectful person and that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” Haney said. Haney said the clerk’s office needs to make a couple of changes, first of all being the need for a new application on their marriage license system.
The clerk’s office has submitted a request to the company to upload the new marriage application issued by the State of Texas, but Haney said because the same company has several Texas counties among their clients, it may become a priority for them. The previous marriage application form had a spot for “Male” and “Female,” while the new form will have a spot for “Applicant One” and “Applicant Two.” Haney also said the marriage license itself, while mostly gender neutral on the front (the picture at the top of the license shows heterosexual couples), specified male and female and Mr. On the back and the return label on the back. While she is in the process of ordering new licenses, Haney said it is at the couple’s discretion whether they would like to wait or go forward with the gender-specific license.