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Texas AG: Counties should wait if same-sex marriage legalized

Texas AG: Counties should wait if same-sex marriage legalized
Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Texas)
Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Texas) AP

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urged county officials Thursday to not immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that gay marriage is legal.

His recommendation came shortly before the court was expected to hand down its long-awaited decision. But county leaders in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas have already said that if the high court allows it, they won’t wait for state approval and are prepared to begin issuing marriage licenses very quickly.

Paxton, a Republican who opposes gay marriage, suggested they stand pat until hearing from his office.

“Whatever the ruling, I would recommend that all county clerks and justices of the peace wait for direction and clarity from this office about the meaning of the court’s opinion and the rights of Texans under the law,” Paxton said in a statement.

If the Supreme Court decision does not come Friday, all eyes shift to Monday for a ruling.

Many Texas counties already were planning to wait on state guidance if the court rules that gay couples have a right to marry. That includes Harris County, which is the exception to Texas’ biggest counties that say they’ll take their cues directly from the nation’s highest court.

Texas law requires a three-day waiting period between the issuing of a marriage license and a wedding ceremony, but couples can obtain waivers through judges.

Texas passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2005 but is not part of the case before the Supreme Court. A federal judge ruled in 2013 that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional but declined to enforce the ruling while it was on appeal.

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Neel Lane, the attorney for the Texas plaintiffs, said it would be improper for the attorney general to impede the execution of a Supreme Court ruling.

“The attorney general will have no standing to delay the issuance of marriage licenses if the Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage is the law of the land,” Lane said in a statement, adding, “Clerks should not delay any further.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican state leaders want the court to keep decisions over the definition of marriage in the hands of each state.

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