Texas clerk issues ‘declaration’ to ‘protect natural marriage from lawless court opinions’

The Irion County Courthouse in Mertzon, Texas.

The Irion County Courthouse in Mertzon, Texas. Larry Moore, Wikimedia

The Irion County Courthouse in Mertzon, Texas.Larry Moore, Wikimedia

The Irion County Courthouse in Mertzon, Texas.

DALLAS, Texas -— A county clerk in West Texas is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and asks state leaders in a self-described “declaration” to “protect natural marriage from lawless court opinions.”

The objection this week by Irion County Clerk Molly Criner to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide is detailed in a statement she crafted titled “Declaration of obedience to law and defense of natural marriage.”

[A]s County Clerk, I declare as follows:

1. I will continue to defend Natural Marriage as recognized by the People of Texas, in the Constitution and Laws of the State of Texas, consistent with the Declaration of Independence; the written United States Constitution; the Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments; and higher Natural Law.

2. Natural Marriage between one man and one woman remains the law in Texas, regardless of any court decision to the contrary. Any court decision purporting to strike down Natural Marriage, including Obergefell v. Hodges, is “unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”

3. I, as County Clerk, in faithful execution of the laws of Texas, shall resist unlawful federal or state court encroachments upon the prerogative of the People of Texas to protect Natural Marriage, and shall only issue marriage licenses consistent with Texas law, so help me God.

4. With a firm reliance upon the providence of Almighty God and the support of my fellow citizens, I call upon all of the Officers of the State of Texas, the Governor, the Attorney General, and the members of the Texas Legislature, to join with me, and utilize all authority within their power to protect Natural Marriage from lawless court opinions, wherever the source.

Other county clerks in Texas have expressed concerns about issuing licenses to same-sex couples, some because they have religious objections to such a marriage and others who cite state documents that haven’t been updated to include same-gender language. But Criner’s opposition, released as part of a broader statement by the Florida-based conservative nonprofit group Liberty Counsel, refers to prior Supreme Court decisions, state resolutions from 1798 and the writings of Martin Luther King Jr. in arguing that marriage “between one man and one woman remains the law in Texas, regardless of any court decision to the contrary.”

As of last week there were about 100 counties in Texas that weren’t issuing the licenses, but the vast majority said the delay was because clerks were awaiting legal advice, updated paperwork or software, according to The Dallas Morning News. Only a few cited religious objections.

Criner’s opposition comes amid a flurry of opinions by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and various county attorneys trying to give direction to county clerks, at least some of whom were uncertain how to act in the wake of the court’s June 26 ruling.

“We were the first people to be affected and the last ones to be contacted. No one had our back,” Yoakum County Clerk Deborah Rushing said in a statewide email list to other clerks, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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