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Texas Bill Would Ensure that Only Secretary of State Can Issue Marriage Licenses

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Courtesy of Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant
A bill from State Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) would give all power to grant marriage licenses to the Texas Secretary of State. A judge granted an order earlier this year that allowed a county clerk to issue a license to a same-sex couple.

On Wednesday, a panel of House lawmakers discussed a proposal to change how marriage licenses are issued in Texas, giving that power to one appointed official: the Secretary of State.

The bill comes after the Travis County clerk issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple last month, after being ordered to do so by a judge.

State Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) says his bill would take away the ability of the state’s 254 county clerks to issue marriage licenses, instead giving that power only to the Secretary of State.

"I’m very confident that Texas continues to be home to social conservatives that believe marriage should be between one man and one woman, and we should continue to stand up for our system of values," Bell said.

Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director with the ACLU of Texas, however, says voters in Texas don’t have the power to trump the U.S. Constitution.

"The federal constitution is the supreme law of the land," Robertson said. "The proponents of this bill seem to misunderstand that basic fact."

Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether same-sex marriage restrictions by states are constitutional. A decision is expected before the summer.

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