Marriage rights one county at a time in Texas

302.0

That was the official code for homosexuality in the 1968 DSM for Mental Disorders as issued by the American Psychiatric Association.

Falling under the category of sexual deviations, homosexuals were described thusly: “Even though many find their practices distasteful, they remain unable to substitute normal sexual behavior for them.” The APA did not completely drop homosexuality from its diagnostic manual until 1987.

5-4.

That was the margin of victory in last Friday’s released decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Thirty-seven states had already approved marriage equality, leaving a reluctant 13 on the sideline.

All four Justices voting against-Chief Justice Thomas Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito-were appointed by Republican presidents. Those voting for consisted of Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. All but Kennedy were appointed by Democratic presidents.

Kennedy, appointed to office by President Ronald Reagan, wrote the majority opinion in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.

Kennedy wrote:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

While many counties in the dissenting states immediately began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, others sought to delay their compliance.

Such has been the case in Texas, as state Attorney General Ken Paxton issued his opinion this past Sunday that county clerks and their employees, as well as justices of the peace and judges, “retain religious freedoms” and cannot be forced to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies or issue marriage licenses.

2.205

That is the section in the Texas Family Code that prohibits discriminating against an applicant who is otherwise competent to be married.

Despite the weight of law being against him, Paxton promised affected state employees would have access to private pro bono lawyers to handle potential lawsuits from same-sex couples denied their constitutional rights.

In response to Paxton’s nonbinding legal opinion, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, wrote U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting that her department make sure same-sex couples are not prevented from obtaining marriage licenses in Texas.

Ellis wrote that Paxton “significantly increases the likelihood of civil rights violations should local officials follow the legal advice and refuse to allow gay and lesbian couples to get married.”

2, 30, and 1.

Roxann Patrick and Tracy McLoud live and work in Bell County, Texas. Said McLoud, “We have been planning to get married for 10 years, and when marriage became legal in other states, we thought about going other places. We decided that we would wait for Texas. This is our home.”

When the decision was announced Friday, Patrick and McLoud hurried down to the County Clerk’s office only to find a sign on the door reading in part that the office was awaiting direction from its legal counsel, and other authorities before issuing such marriage licenses.

Throughout the trying afternoon, more of the couple’s friends, both LGBT and straight, arrived to provide moral support, but at closing time Bell County had not joined much of the rest of the nation in obeying the Supreme Court.

McLoud talked to this reporter about the kinds of rights marriage brings to a couple. “The list goes on and on. Things that are taken for granted, silly little things like a family rate at the local gym or getting a family membership at the local movie store, to being able to enjoy insurance rights. Little things and big things. Being married takes our level of commitment to a higher notch.”

Sunday evening, after Paxton’s non-binding opinion, Shelley Coston, the Bell County Clerk, posted her response on the county’s website. She balked at the notion of denying licenses to same-sex couples and the possible legal repercussions that would follow. She wrote, “The costs of defending such a lawsuit and the potential for damages would be substantial.  I cannot do that to our taxpayers.”

However, Coston also wrote that reasonable accommodations would be made for Deputy Clerks who have religious objections to participating in the issuance of such licenses.

As the days pass, more and more Texas counties are bending to the law of the land.

And so it was that Patrick and McLoud, accompanied by their friends, returned to the clerk’s office Monday morning, paid the usual $67 and received their marriage license.

Said McLoud, “We feel proud, we feel accomplished and happy to open the door for other gay and lesbian couples to follow suit…knowing that others have gone through struggles it makes us want this even more.”

She reflected, “This house we live in now, it’s in my name, but it’s our home…if something were to happen to me, my family would do the right thing and would see that this stays Roxanne’s home. Now I know for sure, she will be protected.”

Patrick and McLoud became the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Bell County. This sign of change was foreshadowed by the first gay rights rally in the county, which happened earlier in June on the steps of the Bell County courthouse. The event was well attended by a mix of LGBTs and their straight allies.

McLoud and Patrick are a mixed white-collar, blue-collar couple who, while politically engaged, are not professional activists and don’t consider themselves to be spokespeople.

“We have been out and open because so many people in our community here feel that they need to be in the closet,” said McLoud. “They don’t feel safe to be out in our community. We feel that this is work that needs to be done and that we need to be out and do our part to make it safe for others.”

Ohio resident Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, told a rally in Austin that the decision is just the beginning, as the next battle is over anti-discrimination laws.

Obergefell said, “We have to keep fighting to end discrimination where it lives: in employment, in education, in public accommodations, [and] in credit. We have to end that now.

Photo: Roxann Patrick (left) and Tracy McCloud.  |  Kelly Sinclair/PW


CONTRIBUTOR

Kelly Sinclair
Kelly Sinclair

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Kelly Sinclair is a singer-songwriter who branched out into prose with the publication of her first novel, "Accidental Rebels." Five of her books (Accidental Rebels, Lesser Prophets, If the Wind Were a Woman, In the Now, Roberta's Fire) appeared with Blue Feather Books before that publisher's demise. In 2015, she returns to print/ebook with her new crime noir novel, "Getting Back," with Regal Crest Books. Also, her Lambda Literary Awards finalist effort, "In the Now," will return to print with science-fiction publisher Lethe Press. In addition to her writing for People's World, she's also an audio reviewer for Library Journal. As a singer-songwriter, she's written for herself (Alive in Soulville) as well as others. Her rock musical, "Clarity," is available for free via Soundcloud. She's also a computer artist. She currently lives in central Texas. She can be found at asebomedia.net as well as via email.

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR

Sorry. No data so far.