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The cost of defying the law on same sex marriage

Nearly $44K in attorneys’ fees, and it could have been worse.

It has been a month since Joe Stapleton and Jim Cato finally got the marriage license Hood County Clerk Katie Lang denied them because of her religious beliefs. It only took a federal lawsuit to get it.

Today that suit was settled, and according to the attorneys representing Stapleton and Cato, Lang’s refusal to issue the license ended up costing Hood County $43,872.10 in attorney’s fees. They will now move to dismiss the suit.

“It is a shame that Hood County Clerk Katie Lang refused to follow the rule of law, causing our clients to go through the difficulties of hiring lawyers and filing a federal lawsuit to obtain the marriage license to which they are constitutionally entitled,” says attorney Pat O’Connell, one of Stapleton and Cato’s attorneys. “And it is sad that the taxpayers of Hood County have to pay the price for their elected official’s misconduct.”

According to Austin attorney Jan Soifer, who also represented the couple, the Hood County Commissioners agreed to settle the suit “to save [Lang] from dealing with the additional expense and significant financial exposure her actions caused the taxpayers of her county.”

See here, here, and here for the background. The lawsuit was filed July 7, so this was a quick resolution. I imagine the Hood county Commissioners Court finally got some better legal advice than what Ken Paxton was dishing out post-Obergfell, and saw the writing on the wall. Lang’s pointless yet defiant anti-same-sex-marriage manifesto is still up on her County Clerk webpage, so I think it’s fair to say the commissioners saved her from herself as well. If there are still any other holdout counties at this point, let this be a lesson for them as well. See the reactions on Facebook from Glen Maxey and attorney Jan Soifer for more.

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3 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    Like or dislike same sex Marriage I don’t care but there is no excuse not to follow the law. I wonder if she would have issued the license if she could have personally liable for the attorney fees.

  2. Mainstream says:

    Hood County had about 22,000 voters in the 2012 presidential election, so that calculates to about $2 per voter for the stonewalling.

  3. J says:

    Paul — I agree with your impulse. Would like to see some personal pain for elected officials who are so clearly wrong. Probably need a high hurdle/standard: prove some sort of “gross and unreasonable disregard” or something. Otherwise, crackpots would harass elected officials too often. Also have to wonder if personal liability would have made Annise Parker’s recent clearly erroneous decisions more in line with the law.