UPDATE -- 10:50 a.m.: An official of the Hood County, Texas clerk's office on Monday issued its first same-sex marriage license to Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton, the couple who filed a lawsuit against County Clerk Katie Lang over her refusal of their application. Last week, Lang said issuing the license was not in line with her religious beliefs, but promised another employee would process the couple's application.
Hood co issues first same sex marriage license. Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton sued this morning. License issued today. pic.twitter.com/p1hjT15m74
— Jim Douglas WFAA (@wfaajdouglas) July 6, 2015
Jim Cato and his partner Joe Stapleton were ready to tie the knot last week until a county clerk in Texas stopped them at a critical step. The couple on Monday filed a lawsuit against Hood County Clerk Katie Lang, who turned them away as they applied for a marriage license last Thursday.
Lang cited her religious beliefs as her reason for refusing to file their marriage license application, according to a report by a Dallas-Fort Worth area CBS affiliate. The clerk had promised Cato and Stapleton that someone else in her office would accept the application, but that still hadn’t happened before the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
“We’re just here to get a marriage license,” Cato told CBS. “We’ve been calling every day and every day we’ve been denied. We’ve been told now it’ll be three weeks or more. If [Lang’s] personal beliefs keep her from her duties as county clerk then she should probably step out of her job.”
Stapleton added: “We’re not after her. We’re not after her job. We’re after equality.”
Last week, Texas’ Republican governor and attorney general said local judges and county clerks could deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples if doing so was in line with their religious beliefs. That announcement came after the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide and amid fears among religious conservatives that they would be forced by law to participate in the unions.
Attorney General Ken Paxton said Texas would provide free legal representation for officials who face lawsuits because of the Supreme Court’s ruling. In a statement, Paxton said lawyers across the state were ready to assist clerks, “in many cases, on a pro-bono basis.”
Texas has 254 counties where marriage licenses can be issued, and those offices are relatively autonomous. After the Supreme Court issued its decision on June 26, some officials in liberal, urban areas did marry gay and lesbian couples, while others refused.