The Lone Star State’s top lawyer has a message for the Supreme Court:
Don’t mess with Texas.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the Supreme Court’s decision Friday on gay marriage a “lawless ruling” and issued a memo offering protection for state employees from being coerced to issue marriage licenses against their religious beliefs.
In a non-binding legal opinion on the decision’s effect on religious liberty issued at the request of Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Paxton wrote:
In recognizing a new constitutional right in 2015, the Supreme Court did not diminish, overrule, or call into question the rights of religious liberty that formed the first freedom in the Bill of Rights in 1791. This newly minted federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage can and should peaceably coexist with longstanding constitutional and statutory rights, including the rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of speech.
Paxton’s opinion concluded that individual county clerks and employees may refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses on religious grounds, and those duties may be reassigned or delegated to accommodate the request.
In a statement severely criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision, Paxton wrote that the Court “ignored the text and spirit of the Constitution to manufacture a right that simply does not exist.”
“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,” Paxton warned.
But he also offered strong support for clerks who are sued, adding that “numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs, in many cases on a pro-bono basis.”
The attorney general pledged to “be a public voice for those standing in defense of their rights.”
Those sound like fighting words.
Texas is strapping on its leather and getting ready to mix it up in the culture war, no matter what five black-robed judges in Washington, D.C., say.