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Same-Sex Marriage is Now Legal in Texas

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Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT
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Bryna Wortham (left) and Diane Jones were married today at the Travis County Courthouse.

This post will be updated. 

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, and within hours, the Travis County Clerk and other county clerks in Texas began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The ruling means big changes for Texas, since to date the state had banned same-sex marriages, defining marriage strictly as between a man and a woman. Today, hundreds of marriage licenses were issued across the state to couples, some of whom had been waiting years for this opportunity. By 5:30 p.m., the Travis County Clerk's office had issued 181 marriage licenses to different- and same-gender couples. (Compared to yesterday, when they issued 17 licenses overall.)

But, there are still those who aren't so sure it's a good idea for the federal government to make this declaration about marriage. Mose Buchele talked to folks at the Texas Capitol today to see how they feel about the decision.

Update, 3:15 PM:

Hundreds of people went to the Travis County Clerk’s Office today to get their marriage licenses. For many, the next step was to head to the Courthouse for a three-day waiver from a judge. Texas law requires couples to wait three days before a wedding ceremony, but some same-sex couples don't want to wait any longer.

One of those couples seeking a waiver was Amy and Di Williams, who have been waiting years to marry legally. Their wedding ceremony is tomorrow, and they shared their story with KUT News. Take a listen: 

Update, 2:30 PM:

Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes are planning a big Texas wedding in November, but it's likely that Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who went to law school with Phariss, won't be on the guest list. 

At a press conference today on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, the couple was asked if Abbott, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, would be attending the wedding. 

"We've got a really limited guest list," Holmes joked. 

"I don't think that would be prudent," said Phariss. 

"Such a long trip for him," added Holmes. 

The couple are plaintiffs in a suit against Texas' ban against same-sex marriage.

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Credit Charlotte Carpenter/KUT
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Vic Holmes (L) Mark Phariss (R) live in the Plano area. The two are getting married in November in North Texas.

Meanwhile, a statewide gay rights group says the Supreme Court's ruling is a welcome one, but that more work remains for equality in the state. 

"We will celebrate today but the reality, unfortunately, is that we live in a state that offers absolutely no statewide prohibitions against discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people," Chuck Smith, Executive Director of Equality Texas, said in a statement. "It’s legal to fire someone in employment, in public accomodations, and we face the very real possibility that couples can now go get married, go on their honeymoon and return and place a wedding photograph on their desk at work and if they weren’t previously out, they could be legally fired from their job for no other reason than their sexual orientation."

Update, 1:15 PM: 

As of noon, the Travis County Clerk's office said they had issued 54 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

“The Court today, as is their province to say what the law is, told us that with regard to the issue of marriage, the law is equality," said Ronald Morgan, Jr., Travis County Chief Deputy Clerk. "And we’re ready to do that today and we’re ready to celebrate that today with a lot of people who have missed out on that opportunity for too many years.”                         

One Austin resident who was fighting the same-sex marriage ban in Texas in court, Cleopatra DeLeon, was ecstatic to hear the news today that same-sex marriage is now legal in Texas and the rest of the U.S. She and her wife were married in Massachusetts, but they live in Austin and wanted their marriage to be recognized in Texas. 

"We’re just so happy," DeLeon tells KUT News. "We’ve always been married since the day we were married in Massachusetts. And Texas has refused to recognize that marriage. But now … the Supreme Court has said that Texas has to … and it’s just a really good feeling.

DeLeon was one of the plaintiffs in a case challenging the same-sex marriage ban in Texas, a case was pending at a federal appeals court. A federal court in San Antonio had ruled in the couple’s favor last year, but Judge Orlando Garcia stayed his decision while the legal challenges continued. Garcia has now lifted that stay, meaning that state officials cannot enforce a ban on same-sex marriage in Texas.

The reaction from state officials, however, has been less than jubilant. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted:

Abbott also issued a memo to state agencies directing them to "respect and preserve Texans religious liberties and First Amendment rights."

The memo reads: 

"All state agency heads should ensure that no one acting on behalf of their agency takes any adverse action against any person ... on account of the person’s act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by sincere religious belief. This order applies to any agency decision, including but not limited to granting or denying benefits, managing agency employees, entering or enforcing agency contracts, licensing and permitting decisions, or enforcing state laws and regulations."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement saying:

"No court, no law, no rule, and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Nothing will change the importance of a mother and a father to the raising of a child. And nothing will change our collective resolve that all Americans should be able to exercise their faith in their daily lives without infringement and harassment."

Several county clerks in the region told KUT that they are waiting for guidance and clearance from the state Attorney General before they begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Several county clerks in the region told KUT they also need updated forms from the Texas Department of State Health Services in order to issue licenses for same-sex couples. 

In Austin, city officials expressed joy at the ruling. Mayor Steve Adler tweeted: 

District 4 Council Member Gregorio Casar went to the Travis County Clerk's office to see same-sex couples get their licenses to marry, including one couple that are friends of his:

And a rainbow flag symbolizing equality was hung from a balcony over city hall:

Original story: 

Starting at 10:30 am today, the Travis County Clerk's Office in Austin began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

“This is a joyous day, I am delighted for all couples who wish to be legally married in Texas," Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said in a statement.

Anyone that is in line by 6:30 pm today will be issued a license, the Clerk's Office says, and next week (starting Monday) they will open at 8:00 am each day to issue licenses. Anyone in line on weekdays next week by 6:30 pm will be issued a license, and the County Clerk will also be open Saturday, July 4th (from 8 am to 5 pm) and Sunday, July 5th (from noon to 5 pm) to issue marriage licenses for all couples. 

The Travis County Clerk's Office is located at 5501 Airport Boulevard. To be issued a license, couples must have the following documents: 

  • "Proof of identity and age (possible documents: official copy of birth certificate, driver’s license or state-issued ID card, passport, visa, military identification)"
  • "Social Security Number for each applicant (if the applicant has one). Note that applicants do not need to bring their Social Security Card"

More information is available at the Travis County Clerk's website

While the Travis County Clerk has been busy issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, neighboring counties are holding off for now. Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, and Lee counties all say they are waiting to hear that they have guidance and clearance from the state Attorney General. And they say they need new forms from the Department of State Health Services to issue the new licenses. They are issuing marriage licenses, but not to same-sex couples yet. 

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Credit Audrey McGlinchy/KUT
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A sign at the Williamson County Clerk's office says they will not be issuing marriage licenses at this time.

In neighboring Williamson County, the clerk's office has posted a sign saying they are not issuing any marriage licenses, because the County Attorney is reviewing the Supreme Court's decision and there are changes that would need to be made to application forms and software first. The sign advises couples seeking licenses to head to Bexar, Travis our Dallas counties for marriage licenses instead. (Update: The Williamson County Clerk now says they are issuing marriage licenses, but not to same-sex couples. They are reviewing the Supreme Court's ruling.)

In Blanco, County Clerk Laura Walla says that it is unclear when the State Attorney General will give clearance to issue same-sex licenses, or when the forms will be updated.

“I don’t have any indication as to when it would be ready. That’s the million dollar question at the moment," she says. "But until I have updated forms from the state and guidance on that, I’m withholding on that [issuing same-sex marriage licenses]. We're conducting business as usual on male-female marriage licenses." 

Wallas says that as of this morning, they haven’t had any same-sex couples come in seeking a license.

The Hays County Clerk's Office says they are "awaiting review by [County] Counsel for guidance & updated State forms to issue same sex marriage [applications]. Will advise when ready."

The Bastrop County Clerk's Office also tells KUT that they are not issuing same-sex marriage licenses at this time,  and will wait to hear guidance from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.