Q&A: Where Texas stands following Supreme Court marriage decision

A couple arrives at the Travis County building to apply for a marriage license at after the US. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Austin, Texas.

A couple arrives at the Travis County building to apply for a marriage license at after the US. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Austin, Texas. Eric Gay, AP

A couple arrives at the Travis County building to apply for a marriage license at after the US. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Austin, Texas. Eric Gay, AP

A couple arrives at the Travis County building to apply for a marriage license at after the US. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Austin, Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas — How same-sex marriage is reverberating across Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gays and lesbians have the right to wed:

Q: WHERE ARE TEXANS MARRYING?

Mostly in urban and liberal pockets of Texas – or, in other words, the biggest cities. Dallas, Austin and San Antonio began handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples within hours of the court’s ruling on Friday, and hundreds have already been issued. Couples in Houston are also getting licenses after the Harris County clerk, an elected Republican, gave up on waiting for an OK from the state.

Q: WHAT’S THE HOLDUP EVERYWHERE ELSE?

A number of Texas’ 254 counties are standing pat until hearing from Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, who had urged local officials not to rush into giving same-sex couples marriage licenses. Paxton said Friday that his office would “shortly” address how counties should handle the decision but set no timetable. Some district attorneys defended their inaction by pointing to how the Supreme Court gives the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration.

Others claimed technical glitches: officials in Denton and Williamson counties said their license software isn’t designed to process gay couples just yet.

Q: WHAT ARE STATE LEADERS DOING IN REPSONSE?

That largely remains to be seen. Aside from Paxton leaving counties in limbo, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott sent a two-page order to agency leaders telling them that the government cannot pressure people to violate their religious beliefs or discriminate against businesses that raise religious objections. The ACLU of Texas says it will now watch to see whether state agencies use Abbott’s order as a way to avoid complying with the Supreme Court ruling.

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Q: CAN GAY OR LESBIAN STATE EMPLOYEES NOW PUT THEIR SPOUSES ON THEIR HEALTH PLANS?

Probably not immediately. University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves tweeted that the state’s largest public university would have more information about benefits next week. And although Abbott’s order says it applies to “granting or denying benefits,” his office later clarified that does not mean denying benefits to same-sex couples. Rebecca Robertson, the legal and policy director of the ACLU of Texas, said it may take state officials a little time to figure this out but said she was optimistic that Texas will soon recognize that a state employee can’t be discriminated against because of their same-sex marriage.

Q: CAN ANYONE DENY A SAME-SEX COUPLE OVER RELIGIOUS OBJECTIONS?

The Supreme Court decision does not extend to the church, and the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature – in anticipation of Friday’s ruling – passed a law earlier this year that reaffirmed the right for clergy members to refuse marrying same-couples on religious grounds.

Gay rights groups backed the law, saying they also support religious freedom, but they’re now watching closely for county clerks who might cite religious objections and refuse to give same-sex couples marriage licenses. A government employee who does so would deny a protection the Supreme Court has now granted.

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