Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) issued a statement on Sunday, openly encouraging the state’s County Clerks to defy the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, by refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. In his statement, Paxton mocked the Supreme Court decision as a “lawless” ruling. He also argued that County Clerks, Judges and Justices of the Peaces should be able to exercise their “religious freedom” to deny issuing marriage licenses and to refuse to conduct weddings for same-sex couples.
Paxton acknowledged that public officials who refused to issue marriage licenses or to perform wedding ceremonies could expose themselves to costly lawsuits, but he assured those defiant officials that he would have their back. Paxton stated:
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.
Texas must speak with one voice against this lawlessness, and act on multiple levels to further protect religious liberties for all Texans, but most immediately do anything we can to help our County Clerks and public officials who now are forced with defending their religious beliefs against the Court’s ruling.
Paxton’s grandstanding will undoubtedly be applauded by Texas’ social conservatives. However, Paxton’s job is to uphold the law, not to resist the legal rulings made by the U.S. Supreme Court. By defying the Supreme Court ruling, the Texas Attorney General is attempting to position himself as one-man army for nullification of federal authority.
Paxton is now leading the crusade to protect religious bigotry in Texas. While he may view his efforts as heroic, they bear an uncanny resemblance to Alabama Governor George Wallace proudly and defiantly standing in a school house door to prevent racial desegregation. If Paxton wants to be remembered as the last standing Attorney General who stood for homophobic bigotry while the rest of the nation moved forward, he should just continue on his present course.