Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday asked the state Supreme Court to void a marriage license issued to two Austin women who became the first same-sex couple to legally wed in the state.
Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, who have been together for 30 years, said their vows on Thursday after state District Judge David Wahlberg ordered the Travis County clerk to issue them a marriage license. Later that day, the Texas Supreme Court put a temporary hold on Wahlberg’s order. Paxton is now asking the court to overturn the order and declare the couple’s marriage license void.
Despite Texas’ constitutional ban on marriages between same-sex couples, Wahlberg ordered the license be issued to Goodfriend and Bryant under special circumstances because Goodfriend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year.
Although Wahlberg’s court order was specific to the Austin couple, Paxton asked the court on Friday to to overturn the order to “avoid the legal chaos” that could arise if county clerks “mistakenly rely” on the order and begin granting marriage licenses to other same-sex couples.
“If that occurred, the harm to the couples, state officials, and the general public would be difficult if not impossible to undo,” Paxton wrote in a petition filed with the Supreme Court.
See here for the background, and here for the AG’s petition. This move was to be expected. As long as the issue is still being litigated at the federal level, it’s hard to imagine the AG not taking action in response to Friday’s historic announcement. One can certainly amount the potential for chaos, though Travis County officials seem to have been pretty restrained overall, and I seriously doubt Paxton really cares about the “harm” that may befall any couples. I’d be interested in hearing the lawyers’ views on his petition, because the expert the Trib consulted had some doubts.
Alexandra Albright, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said she was unsure whether the attorney general has the standing to invalidate a marriage license.
“As far as bringing a lawsuit to invalidate, it sounds like a stretch,” Albright said. Because the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the issue, she added it’s unlikely the Texas high court will quickly rule on Paxton’s petition.
“I don’t think they see any reason to hurry up and try to issue an opinion before the U.S. Supreme Court decides,” Albright said.
Any comment on that. In the meantime, there’s Item Two.
State Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, filed legislation Friday afternoon that would make the Texas secretary of state’s office the sole distributor of marriage licenses. Couples looking to marry currently obtain marriage licenses from individual county clerk’s offices.
Perry said his bill is intended to keep county clerks from issuing marriage licenses “that do not conform to state law.”
“Yesterday, Travis County officials acted in direct conflict with the Texas Constitution,” Perry said in a statement. “[Senate Bill] 673 ensures rule of law is maintained and the Texas Constitution is protected.”
State Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, has filed a companion bill in the House.
Seems like more than a bit of an overreaction to something that will very likely be a moot point by the end of the year, wouldn’t you say? I have a hard time seeing this as anything but a prelude to some Roy Moore-style defiance of the coming SCOTUS ruling. I mean, as long as county clerks can give out marriage licenses, then it only takes one Dana deBeauvoir to open the floodgates for every gay couple in the state. On the other hand, if you centralize that power and make only one official – one official who serves at the pleasure of the Governor – accountable, well, you can see the potential for chaos that this can cause. Do you think these guys, from Abbott to Paxton to Charles Perry and Cecil Bell, realize that forty years from now they’re going to be their generation’s George Wallace and Bull Connor? I’m pretty sure they don’t.
And finally, Item Three:
From the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” Department, I think this may be my favorite* new crime proposed yet in 2015: Texas state Rep. Debbie Riddle has filed legislation making it a Class A misdemeanor for a transgendered person to use the restroom of their adopted gender, even after reassignment surgery, and a state jail felony for a building manager to allow them to do so.
Indeed, the bill goes beyond transgendered people to criminalize anyone entering the restroom of the opposite gender with three exceptions: if they enter for custodial purposes, to give medical attention, or accompanying a minor under eight years old. I can think of more than one instance in my life where I would have committed a Class A misdemeanor under this provision, how about you?
My wife suggested that many women may have violated this proposed law at nightclubs or public events because the lines to women’s restrooms are always quite long and the stalls in the men’s room are frequently empty.
Leave it to The Riddler to kick things up a notch. It turns out that this isn’t just her bright idea – really, she isn’t smart enough to think of something like this – but it’s part of a national campaign being pushed in state legislatures everywhere by the usual assortments of crooks and ne’er do wells. If that surprises you, you really haven’t been paying close enough attention.