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Texas For Marriage

There will be more lawsuits

The lawsuit filed in Hood County to force County Clerk Katie Lang to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple won’t be the last one like it.

RedEquality

“We hope and expect that county clerks across Texas and the country will take a look at what happened [in Hood County] and do the right thing and follow the U.S. Constitution,” said Austin Kaplan, an Austin attorney who represents a Granbury gay couple who obtained a marriage license on Monday after filing a lawsuit against the Hood County Clerk’s office in federal court.

The Granbury couple, Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton, who have been together for 27 years, have said they will move forward with their lawsuit until the county clerk’s office agrees to issue marriage licenses to all couples. Kaplan said they have not heard from Hood County Clerk Katie Lang, and her office would not say whether it is issuing same-sex licenses.

With a population of 53,921 people, Hood County is the most populous county among those still refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Texas counties’ responses to the Supreme Court’s ruling varied between those that immediately began issuing marriage licenses and those that took a few days to come around. But two weeks after the high court’s ruling, at least six counties are likely refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, according to Texans for Marriage.

The other holdout counties as of July 7 were Dallam and Roberts counties in the Panhandle; Irion, Hartley and Loving counties in West Texas; and Hamilton County, located between Austin and Fort Worth.

(Of Texas’ 254 counties, three counties have not been reached and 13 counties are planning to issue marriage licenses after “software changes” or receipt of updated marriage certificates, according to Texans for Marriage.)

On Thursday, a deputy clerk in Roberts County told The Texas Tribune that the clerk’s office would issue licenses if requested by a same-sex couple.

Hartley County Clerk Melissa Mead said her office won’t issue same-sex marriage licenses until the clock runs out on the 25 days that parties in the Supreme Court case have to ask for a rehearing of the case.

A deputy clerk for Loving County said her office was awaiting further direction from the attorney general’s office. A spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the only guidance from the state’s top lawyer was the written opinion issued June 28, which said county clerks with religious objections can opt out of issuing same-sex marriage licenses but they should be prepared to get sued.

Calls to Dallam and Hamilton went unanswered.

See here and here for background on Hood County. Next in line appears to be Irion County, and after that who knows. Actually, what could happen is more lawsuits in the same places as before:

A judge’s ruling in the Hood County case would likely only apply to those parties in that county, said Alexandra Albright, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. If the case went to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals — which has appellate jurisdiction over federal courts in Texas — then any ruling would apply to the entire circuit, Albright added.

Now that the Hood County gay couple has obtained a marriage license, a federal judge may not immediately rule on the broader issue of whether the Hood County clerk’s delay “caused constitutional damage,” so other same-sex couples would likely have to file their own lawsuits, said Meg Penrose, a law professor at Texas A&M University.

“If this is not a class action, other individuals that are denied marriage licenses will need to sue on their own behalf or wait for a class action to be filed,” Penrose said. “This could become costly for the county [or] clerk as individual lawsuits could mount quickly.”

Kaplan, the attorney for the Hood County gay couple, said Texas lawyers were keeping an eye on “lawless clerks” and would likely take action if clerks continued to believe “there’s some justification for failing to issue the licenses.”

“We’ll see what happens when that comes to head,” he added.

One would think that repeated litigation over the same thing might make a recalcitrant County Clerk less popular. I understand that Katie Lang’s husband Mike is a candidate to succeed Jim Keffer in HD60, so this could quickly become an election issue. As the man said, we’ll see.

Same sex marriage ads on your TV

In case you missed it.

RedEquality

The national same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry will air a series of television ads in Texas this week, with the aim to personalize the issue ahead of an important federal hearing Friday.

The $100,000 TV buy will air Sunday and Monday, just days before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is slated to hear arguments in a case challenging Texas’ constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The ads, which feature gay and lesbian Texans talking about their desire to marry, will air in eight of Texas’ 20 markets including Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley, Waco and Wichita Falls.

In the ad slated to run in the Dallas area, Fort Worth Police Officers express their desire that their gay colleague, Chris Gorrie, soon has the ability to marry his partner.

“Texans believe in freedom and liberty, and part of that is being able to marry who you love,” Fort Worth Police Department Neighborhood Police Officer Jay Doshi says of his colleague. “So Chris should be able to marry whoever he loves.”

[…]

Freedom to Marry has aired similar ads in other states ahead of prominent court hearings there. The Texas ads are part of the group’s recently-launched statewide advocacy campaign, which also features town hall meetings and efforts to bring together young conservatives around the issue.

See here for the background on Texas for Marriage, the aforementioned statewide advocacy campaign. Here’s the ad in question:

As I understand it, this is the only ad currently set for broadcast, but dozens of couples (and allies) have been profiled on the Texas for Marriage website and Facebook page, so visit those for more. I’m glad to see this and I hope they get a great response to this campaign. Trail Blazers and Hair Balls have more.

Yet another lawsuit against Texas’ ban on same sex marriage

And then there were ten.

RedEquality

Texas now has at least 10 pending lawsuits challenging the state’s bans on same-sex marriage — believed to be the most of any state.

An Austin lesbian widow is the latest to challenge the marriage bans after her late partner’s family sought to exclude her from the estate — an all-too-common scenario in Texas.

Sonemaly Phrasavath says she and her wife, Stella Powell, were together for 10 years, according to a report from KXAN-TV.

They had a domestic partnership and planned to start a family when Powell was diagnosed with cancer last year. Powell died in June before they were able to notarize her will, but Phrasavath is now seeking to have their relationship recognized as a common-law marriage in Texas.

Phrasavath is represented by gay attorney Brian Thompson, a board member for Equality Texas.

[…]

The case is headed to court in January. Although it’s possible Phrasavath will get a favorable ruling from the probate judge, it’s also likely that Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office would intervene and appeal the decision, as it has done in several other cases challenging the marriage bans.

And new AG Ken Paxton will pick up where Abbott leaves off. They’ll appeal and obstruct until they run out of options. Sonemaly Phrasavath and Stella Powell’s story is one of many being told on the new Texas for Marriage site that I wrote about yesterday. Lambda Legal has a description of the nine other current lawsuits involving Texas’ discriminatory law. Our state will be a much better place when that abomination is finally dead and buried.

Texas For Marriage

This.

Law enforcement officials, state legislators, faith leaders and a great-grandmother are among those lending their voices to a new campaign to bring marriage equality to Texas.

The national group Freedom to Marry plans to spend $200,000 on the campaign launched Tuesday, in advance of oral arguments before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January in a federal lawsuit challenging Texas’ same-sex marriage bans.

The campaign will be led by Ward Curtin, three-time deputy campaign manager to Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to President George W. Bush.

“Nearly every state and federal court from last year on, more than 50 – with judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents and governors – has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and moving the country forward,” Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson said. “Texas families should not be left behind. Government has no business interfering in important freedoms like who Texans marry, and no business putting obstacles in the path of families and employers trying to do the right thing. Our new campaign will show that Texans are ready for the freedom to marry, and so is America.”

In addition to a website unveiled Tuesday, TxForMarriage.org, the campaign will feature statewide TV ads, townhall meetings and a Republican-led effort by young conservatives.

“Gay marriage was barely a blip on the radar this past election cycle in Texas, as it was in the rest of the country,” McKinnon said. “That’s because discrimination doesn’t sell like it used to — and because Texans from all walks of life, from big cities to small towns, believe strongly in freedom and family. Supporting gay couples marrying is squarely in line with these Texas values.”

I’m delighted to see this. I encourage you to visit TxForMarriage.org and read the stories. Show the website to anyone you may know that doesn’t yet believe in equality. I’d love for everyone to see the justice and rightness in this cause and come around to it on their own, and I agree with Texas Leftist that the religious community needs to be engaged as much and as respectfully as possible, but we all know there will be holdouts, and we all know who they are. So I’ll be just as happy if the Fifth Circuit and/or the Supreme Court fulfills their darkest nightmares and jams marriage equality down their throats, if that’s what it takes. We can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way, either is fine by me. Texas Politics and Equality Texas have more.