Hood County and its outspoken County Clerk bow to the inevitable.
A Texas county clerk said on Tuesday her office will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, reversing a previous decision that was based on religious objections.
Some counties in other socially conservative states such as Kentucky have declined to issue such licenses since the U.S. Supreme Court said on Friday the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry. The controversy could result in a new round of lawsuits over gay marriage.
Katie Lang, clerk of Hood County, southwest of Fort Worth, said staffers will issue the licenses although she will not do so based on her Christian beliefs, which she believes are protected under the Constitution.
“I am grateful that the First Amendment continues to protect the sincerely held religious beliefs of public servants like me. That has not changed since last Friday,” Lang said.
Hood County will begin processing same-sex marriage applications when it receives the appropriate forms, she said.
Lang had previously drawn attention for her mule-headed defiance, so it’s a particular pleasure to see her cave. As both Somervell County Salon and the Dallas Voice note, she’s not exactly being honest about her earlier actions, but at this point I don’t care. The point is that her office is doing its duty. Everything else is details.
Overall, we’re not quite at half of Texas counties being in compliance, but the vast majority of people live in a county where a same-sex marriage license is now available.
The Austin-based group Equality Texas has been tallying Texas counties that have confirmed they are issuing the newly legal marriage licenses, and the number as of Tuesday afternoon was 115. It’s an inexact count, but it lines up with a tally taken by the Dallas Morning News on Friday.
Project coordinator and Equality Texas legislative specialist Daniel Williams said that doesn’t mean none of the remaining 139 counties are issuing licenses — only that a substantial number are not.
“For the most part, there seems to be confusion about how to do it,” Williams said. “In some cases the counties have data systems that have to interact with the [federal] Bureau of Vital Statistics forms, and they’re having difficulty getting the systems to line up.”
When the Houston Chronicle called around to about a dozen county clerks, many echoed that conundrum. Seven counties were still waiting on software updates, and they relied on a variety of manufacturers, both in and out of state, who they said were working with a severe backlog because of the quantity of requests for updated digital forms.
“Some counties were prepared for this and some were overwhelmed and were taken unaware,” Williams said.
Many depend on software products from Plano-based Tyler Technologies or San Antonio-based Property Info, and are waiting on the companies to issue updates.
Officials in Hill County, north of Waco, said they were waiting on an updated design for their physical marriage license from Wichita Falls-based Bear Graphics. None of the three companies was immediately available for comment Tuesday.
However, even counties waiting on products to issue same-sex marriage licenses said they would be ready as soon as possible. Most estimated they’d be ready within days. Some predicted early next week.
The embedded image is from Williams’ Facebook page. As of last night, with Hood County in the fold, the count was at 117, covering 84% of the state’s population. At this point I’m not aware of any other Lang-level disobedience – it’s all just waiting for the upgrades, which may or may not reflect a certain amount of disorganization or unpreparedness, but at least isn’t willfulness. My guess at this point would be that by this time next week we should be at or pretty close to full compliance. Stay tuned.