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Published Tuesday, Oct. 26th, 2021
A Texas lawmaker has written a formal request to the state’s Attorney General, asking for the Office to agree that private citizens have the right not to “recognize” same-sex marriages... despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality in 2015.
Rep. James White (R) sent the letter on October 19 to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and the Office’s Opinions Committee, titling it:
“Whether Obergefell v. Hodges... requires private citizens to recognize homosexual marriages when the law of Texas continues to define marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman.”
This is, of course, offensive, exhausting, and harmful to LGBTQ+ families, and it’s causing a lot of commotion. (You can see the responses from other lawmakers here.)
First, it’s important to clarify that private citizens don’t have the legal authority to “recognize” marriages -- only the government can do that, and same-sex marriages have been federally recognized and protected since 2015.
Next, White is referencing old laws that are still on the books in Texas, as they are in most states, that define marriage as a contract that’s only valid between a woman and a man. However, these laws are not currently enforceable, in Texas or elsewhere, because of the 2015 Obergefell ruling and subsequent adoption of federal protections for same-sex marriages.
Several states with these types of unenforceable bans, including Texas, have considered or are currently considering legislation to update their laws. A bill was introduced in Texas earlier this year (HB 1037) that would have amended the Texas Family Code, changing references to “a man and a woman” to “two individuals,” but it hasn’t passed.
In the letter, White writes:
“I respectfully ask that you clarify that neither Obergefell nor De Leon requires private citizens to recognize homosexual marriages, and neither decision requires or allows them to disregard the extant laws of Texas that continue to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”
White is giving Paxton -- who has previously opposed other government protections for LGBTQ+ individuals -- a chance to make his opinion public, thereby validating White’s stance that same-sex couples shouldn’t have the right to marry in Texas.
White is also claiming that Texas state law should carry more weight than federal law in these matters.
And he’s encouraging private citizens to openly discriminate against same-sex couples in their businesses and communities.
State Rep James White (R) opposes marriage equality in Texas
No. For now, federal law continues to protect same-sex marriages in Texas and around the country.
However, if the Supreme Court changes its position on Obergefell while bans like this remain on state lawbooks, same-sex marriages could potentially be in risk in multiple states. That’s why marriage equality advocates and American Marriage Ministries were concerned when Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito issued a statement against marriage equality, around the same time that Justice Amy Coney Barrett, another conservative justice, was confirmed.
This is also why it’s so important that states finally get around to removing these defunct bans from their state constitutions and codes, like Nevada did in 2020.
Removing these bans and updating state laws creates additional protection for LGBTQ+ families at the state level… and it’s the right thing to do.
In places where LGBTQ+ couples are openly and actively discriminated against -- as they are in Texas -- it can be difficult for these couples to find a wedding officiant who will marry them with love and respect, especially in rural areas where options and officiants might be very limited.
Online ordination through American Marriage Ministries makes ordination accessible and safe to anyone who believes that all people have the right to marry, cultivating a large community of inclusive and accepting wedding officiants all across the country.
Same-sex couples can ask supportive friends and family members to get ordained online to marry them, instead of facing rejection and discrimination from officiants who don’t share their values.
And individuals who support the constitutional rights of all couples to marry, can show their support for marriage equality by becoming an ordained minister with AMM. Once they’re ordained, they’re ready to marry couples in their community whenever and wherever they’re needed.
By removing specific barriers to ordination, AMM helps ensure that every couple can find a minister who will honor their love -- including LGBTQ+ couples, interracial couples, interfaith couples, couples who can’t afford to hire a professional officiant, and others who risk discrimination.
This helps all couples have the loving wedding they truly deserve!
Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!