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Government/Politics

Approved Senate Bill Would Allow County Clerks And Judges To Deny Same-Sex Marriages

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Ryan Poppe
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Texas Public Radio

Lawmakers in the Texas Senate have taken up a bill that would allow judges and county clerks to deny marriages to same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs.  Opponents question whether the bill, if enacted, would violate a person’s constitutional rights and whose rights would they be violating?

The bill by State Senator Brian Birdwell, a Granbury Republican, would exempt county clerks from having to draw up a marriage license for a same-sex couple and county judges from performing them, if doing so violated their own religious beliefs.

“If a judge is asked to perform a wedding [or] a marriage that is against their sincerely held religious belief, right now there is no protection for that judge to say, 'no'," Birdwell explains.

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Credit Ryan Poppe
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State Sen. Jose Menendez

But State Sen. Jose Menendez, a San Antonio Democrat, is concerned that ensuring county clerks and judges constitutional protection would also be violating same-sex couples' constitutional right of equal protection under the law.

“So are you concerned at all with the guarantee of equal treatment under the law?  Let’s say Harris County has a clerk that holds religious beliefs that denies marriage licenses but Bexar County’s clerk does not deny," says Menendez. "Would that create a situation in Texas where we are not providing equal treatment under the law?"

Birdwell says his legislation requires a county clerk or judge protesting a person’s marriage to appoint an alternative person to sign a couple’s marriage certificate or perform their ceremony.  The bill was approved by the Texas Senate on a vote of 21 to 10 and now heads to the House.