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Bill would allow Texas clerks to deny same-sex marriage licenses

In January, two Republican state senators in Texas filed a bill that would allow country clerks to deny signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples if the clerk believes that issuing such a license would violate his or her "sincerely held religious beliefs."

The Senate Affairs Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 522 last week. The Texas Freedom Network condemned the bill, saying it will allow discrimination against almost anyone by public officials.

The bill, if passed into law, would allow country clerks to pass the role of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples to deputy clerks, magistrates or judges. If there is no one that will sign the license, then the county commissioners will need to appoint a "certifying official." That could be a contractor or regular employee. Should there not be a certifying official in the county, then the couple will need to obtain their marriage license from another county.

Proponents say that this is one way to keep government employees from having to do things that are against their religious beliefs. There are 17 other bills in the Texas legislature right now that, according to conservatives, will help protect religious liberties. For example, HB 2876 would allow workers in the wedding industry to refuse service to same-sex couples and HB 3571 would allow almost any business to refuse service to gay people in general.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Texas Freedom Network are both working against these bills, calling them government-sanctioned discrimination. The president of the Texas Freedom Network said of the bill, "[It] makes a mockery of religious freedom by allowing public officials to discriminate against virtually anyone who fails to meet their personal moral standards."

If you are in a same-sex relationship and are in the midst of a family law matter, an attorney who supports same-sex couples' rights can be of help.

Source: houstonpress.com, "Texas Bill Would Allow Clerks to Refuse to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses," Dianna Wray, April 03, 2017

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