March 2016 Church & State - March 2016

Texas Judge Has No Right To Deny Marriage To Same-Sex Couples, AU Says

  AU admin

A justice of the peace in Dallas County, Texas, does not have a religious-freedom right to turn away same-sex couples who want to be married, says Americans United.

Last month, the judge, Bill Metzger of Mesquite, announced via a Facebook posting that he “will only be conducting traditional marriages.” Metzger later told a local television station that his Catholic faith teaches that same-sex marriage is wrong.

In a letter sent to Metzger, Americans United explained that government employees responsible for performing duties related to marriage are not permitted to pick and choose which couples they serve.

“A government employee may not remain on marriage duty while refusing to serve same-sex couples,”        asserts the letter. “Government employees may not, under any cir­­cum­stances, ask same-sex couples to visit another office, come back later or another day, or obtain service from someone else. Imposing such burdens on a same-sex couple demeans and stigmatizes the couple in a manner that violates the Constitution and other laws. And this unequal treatment could also subject you and your office to liability.”

Metzger cited an opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that asserted that government officials don’t have to facilitate same-sex marriages as long as another employee is willing to do so. But Americans United pointed out that Paxton’s non-binding opinion is wrong.

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