This weekend it will be a month since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, making it legal across the country for same-sex couples to tie the knot. That was a very good day for a lot of people, joy across the land and couples getting hitched as soon as they could get marriage licenses.
And then there was Texas. If you're like us, maybe you tried to be optimistic, to hope against hope that the Lone Star State's better side would come shining through with a warm embrace of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's ringing affirmation of the right for same-sex couples to marry.
Yeah, we were disappointed, too.
Instead of being cool, many Texas political figures chose the low road, and boy did they walk it. In honor of the fact that it has now been a month that same-sex couples have been getting hitched across Texas, despite the unpleasant responses from certain Texas political figures, we've rounded up our top five worst reactions to legal same-sex marriage in Texas:
5. Texas Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton was ready with a letter that let county clerks do absolutely nothing. Paxton led the charge with our favorite worst-response-ever when he sent out a letter informing state officials that they had the option of not complying with the Supreme Court's ruling if they so chose. If Paxton had just gone with it, it's possible that couples across the state and right here in Houston would have been able to simply get their marriage license, but that wasn't how this show was going to play out.
Instead, Paxton's decision on the matter went like this:
“In the Attorney General’s opinion my office issued in response to Lt. Governor Patrick’s request for guidance, we find that although it fabricated a new constitutional right in 2015, the Supreme Court did not diminish, overrule, or call into question the First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion that formed the first freedom in the Bill of Rights in 1791. This newly invented federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage should peaceably coexist alongside longstanding constitutional and statutory rights, including the rights to free exercise of religion and speech."
On top of not getting behind the Supreme Court decision, or at least discreetly stepping out of the way, Paxton took things even further by using wishy-washy language and warning state officials that they had the right to not issue licenses but that they could face litigation or a fine for not doing so.
4. Sen. Ted Cruz urging people to ignore the Supreme Court. Keep in mind that Cruz is supposed to be a famed constitutional scholar and all of that, but he still turned around and told people they didn't have to obey the Supreme Court, also known as the highest court in the land and the final word on all things Constitutional in the United States. Still Cruz somehow managed to keep from cracking up when on NPR when he claimed that the Supreme Court decision was only binding for the parties directly involved in the case. "The parties to a case cannot ignore a direct judicial order, but it does not mean that those who are not parties to a case are bound by a judicial order," he said. We'd have been rolling on the floor when we heard that one if we weren't already occupied hitting our head on the desk in exasperation.
But then he turned the whole thing up to 11 by saying that he wants to change things up so that Supreme Court justices are subject to elections.
"This week in response to both of these decisions, I have called for another constitutional amendment - this one that would make members of the Supreme Court subject to periodic judicial retention elections. As a very real check, 20 states have retention elections they've put in place, if judges overstep their bounds, violate the constitution, then the people have a check to remove them from office. I've called for that change."
How could making the Supremes elected officials possibly go wrong?
3. Gov. Greg Abbott suddenly cares about religious freedom and the First Amendment. Abbott wasn't as quick on the draw as Paxton but he still issued a directive to all state agency heads droning on about the First Amendment, the Texas Constitution and a general thing about being really concerned about religious freedom. See, somehow, according to Abbott, state officials having to actually perform their duties and both issue marriage licenses to and preside over marriages of gay couples was just too much because of God and stuff. He made his point in dull, colorless language that somehow managed to make Texas look even worse than usual on this issue. Below is a sample:
This Nation was founded by people who sought a place to worship God according to the dictates of conscience and free from government coercion. It is therefore no coincidence that the freedom of religion is the very first freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. As leaders of this State, we have an obligation to secure the right of all Texans to live their lives according to the principles of their religious faith.
We face-palmed over this one. In a perfect world, Abbott would have been out front of the state capitol building waving a giant rainbow flag or down at one of the many county clerk offices where the officials did get immediately on board and started issuing licenses within minutes of the Supreme Court decision. That would have been cool. And if he couldn't impress us with unexpected joy and acceptance of this huge decision, we'd have been cool with him simply not saying anything. Alas, it wasn't to be. Abbott just had to say stuff and the stuff he said made Texas look even worse than it already did.
2. Lt. Gov, Dan Patrick not tweeting out the most perfect thing he didn't mean to say about the ruling. So lame. Back in 2014, Patrick was ready to roll with his Twitter statement after a federal judge had ruled that the state ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. Patrick, or whoever was handling his account, took to the social media immediately to voice his outrage. And instead his tweet read as follows: "MARRIAGE= ONE MAN & ONE MAN." It was glorious. We were downright giddy with glee, as was all of the Twitter. But anyone who hoped that Patrick would make a similar-or-better blunder in the wake of the SCOTUS decision was in for a letdown. Patrick's statement was released via a press release instead of a tweet.
“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is not a decision based on any law that Congress has passed legalizing gay marriage in the United States. The Supreme Court, as it has in the past, is making law. I do not believe that is what the Constitution intended or allows. In my view, this is a clear violation of the separation of powers."
Then the release droned on about the U.S. Constitution, the state constitution and all of the usual posturing about religion, God and stuff. Instead of the beautiful gaffes that Patrick occasionally slips up and rewards us with, we were treated to exactly what was expected from the second top official in the state. So boring. Then he made it even more dull by being so determined-sounding that he and all of the rest of the people on this list were absolutely right in making this call.
“It has been said that those who oppose gay marriage are on the wrong side of history. I would rather be on the wrong side of history than on the wrong side of my faith and my beliefs. I believe I am not alone in that view in this country."
Would it have killed him to Tweet just one wonderful mis-Tweet?
1. The shenanigans of the county clerks and that one county judge. After the news broke gay couples from across the state started showing up at county clerk offices to get their licenses. But while most of the big cities were quickly on board some county clerks dug in their heels and refused to budge. But Denton County Clerk Juli Luke really took the cake. Not only did she refuse to marry same-sex couples, she was a complete ass about it. She posted an "explanation" outside the door of her office:
"I took an oath to uphold the laws of Texas and the United States. It appears this decision now places our great state in a position where our state contradicts federal law. Based on this new conflict, I will be deferring to my legal counsel, District Attorney Paul Johnson, for guidance."
Then she posted another one claiming that she only wanted to make sure everyone had the right paperwork. See, it's not that Luke is a conservative Republican, she just cares too much about making sure the right people get the right forms, or something. Luke eventually caved in and started issuing marriage licenses again, but then Denton County Judge James DePiazza got in on the action. Like Luke, DePiazza is against the whole same-sex marriage thing personally, but he decided he was willing to perform marriages. The thing is, he decided to have couples sign this little form he'd come up with acknowledging that he only did the ceremony because he had to:
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"Judge DePiazza prefers to NOT conduct same-sex ceremonies, but will not decline anyone who chooses to schedule with him. While we may not necessarily agree with, we acknowledge Judge DePiazza's position that he prefers not to conduct same-sex marriages and agree not to address the topic of same-sex marriages with Judge DePiazza before, during or after the ceremony."
And then there were two blank spots where people could sign. Charming isn't it?
Meanwhile, some county clerks went the extra mile and resigned entirely rather than issue licenses that go against their religious beliefs. Rusk County Clerk Joyce Lewis-Kugle quit and Live Oak County Clerk Karen Irving retired rather than be a part of the same-sex marriage process.
Now why couldn't the Denton officials have chosen that route instead?