Tom Green County Justice of the Peace Gives Up on Marriage


Tom Green County Justice of the Peace Pct. 4 Eddie Howard sent Elizabeth McGill, County Clerk of Tom Green County, a memo informing her that he will no longer officiate marriages of any kind: Gay or straight. Howard wrote in his memo that the law only instructs him that he "may" perform a marriage ceremony, not that he "will”. In light of today's ruling forcing the recognition of same-sex marriage on all 50 states, Howard threw in the towel on marriage altogether.

According to McGill, the three other JPs are still on her list of available judges for marriage ceremonies.

McGill said that her office is not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples primarily because her office has not been issued the required forms for applicants for same-sex couples to fill out. "The form has fields for the male and the female to fill out," she said.

McGill is also awaiting a ruling from the Texas Attorney General on whether or not people on her staff are required to service same-sex marriage applicants if they object over religious or moral grounds.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick went to bat for Texas county clerks and justices of the peace and asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for an opinion on today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“If the Supreme Court declares a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, can a county clerk or his or her employees refuse to issue a same-sex marriage license if doing so would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs on marriage?” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wrote. “Lastly, could a justice of the peace or a judge refuse to conduct a same-sex wedding ceremony if doing so would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs on marriage? Texans have clearly spoken that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Should the U.S. Supreme Court rule contrary to the voice of Texas, the answers to these questions are important.”

Until the TAG rules, and the state provides her with the correct forms, McGill said she's standing firm: No same-sex marriage licenses will be issued in Tom Green County.

County Treasurer Dianna Spieker said that money earned by JPs for performing marriage ceremonies is the JPs, not the county's. Any money earned by a JP for performing a marriage ceremony is expected to be theirs to keep, she said.

McGill said her office has fielded a higher number of phone calls than normal. Most of them, she guesses, are from gay activist organizations. And, she said, she has received many calls from the state and national media.

In light of the uptick in media inquiries today, McGill issued a statement regarding today's Supreme Court ruling. It reads:

Tom Green County Clerk’s Office will comply with Statutory Law as set out.

We are not currently issuing a marriage license to persons of the same sex at this time.  The Supreme Court’s ruling didn’t cover the Texas statute.  The Family Code specifically states  “The county clerk SHALL furnish the application form AS PRESCRIBED BY THE BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS.” (Family Code, Sec. 2.004(a)) There has not been a new form prescribed yet.  I’ve taken an oath to follow the statutes of the State of Texas and will not act in violation of this statute.

The Bureau is now reviewing the court’s ruling and is consulting with the Office of the Attorney General.  We have no way of knowing how long this could take.  Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick, filed a request for an opinion from the Attorney General yesterday which should resolve other issues.  The A.G. has 60 days to respond.  So, in short, if there are no appeals filed, we may be waiting up to 60 days before all questions are answered. 

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Apparently, the clerks will happily provide a marriage license to the man/woman who is on their second, third, fourth, etc. marriage. If a public official all the sudden finds it against his or her religion to follow the law. Then they should resign, immediately.

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