First it was Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) who condemned last week’s ruling by the Supreme Court that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right that must be observed in all 50 states. The Christian Science Monitor reports that Abbott’s statement about the high court’s 5-4 decision was defiant, drawing a bold line in the sand when it comes to forcing officials and religious leaders to perform gay marriages in the Lone Star State.
“Texans of all faiths must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious freedom is beyond the reach of government,” Gov. Abbott said. “Renewing and reinforcing that promise is all the more important in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. The government must never pressure a person to abandon or violate his or her sincerely held religious beliefs regarding a topic such as marriage.”
Echoing the governor’s sentiments, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has also weighed in on the red-hot issue, as the Monitor article notes: “…Paxton defended the religious liberty of state employees in a statement Sunday, saying they would not have to issue marriage licenses or perform weddings for same-sex couples and called the Supreme Court’s Friday decision ‘a lawless ruling.’”
As the chief law enforcement officer for Texas, Paxton added that legal help would be made available to county clerks and their employees throughout the state should they face adverse legal consequences for refusing to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling on religious grounds.
The Monitor’s article on the same-sex marriage ruling adds: “Attorney General Paxton said in a statement that the ruling ‘stops at the door of the First Amendment’ and cannot touch religious freedom.”
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The Dallas Morning News reports on Paxton’s defense of Texas officials who balk at providing same-sex marriage licenses:
Paxton’s opinion also said justices of the peace and judges similarly may rebuff requests that they officiate at same-sex weddings, especially if their colleagues in their areas are receptive to doing so.
Judges and justices of the peace, Paxton wrote, “may claim that the government cannot force them to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies over their religious objections, when other authorized individuals have no objection, because it is not the least restrictive means of the government ensuring the ceremonies occur.”
One of the Supreme Court’s more staunch conservatives — Justice Clarence Thomas, writing in his dissent from the pro-gay marriage decision — warned of the threat to religious liberty inherent in the high court’s highly controversial ruling.
CNS News quotes from Thomas’ withering criticism of the landmark 5-4 ruling:
“Aside from undermining the political processes that protect our liberty, the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect,” Thomas said in his dissent.
“In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well,” said Thomas. “Today’s decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter.”