Not so fast, unelected judges. A bipartisan coalition of leaders in Southern States are rejecting the Supreme Court’s declaration that gay couples can get married in their states, saying it’s not going to happen right away.
Elected leaders in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas say there’s no reason they have to immediately follow the Supreme Court ruling that gay marriage is legal nationwide—at least not if there’s a religious liberty exemption.
“We believe the U.S. Constitution, Louisiana Constitution, Louisiana’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, as well as our Executive Order prevents government from compelling individuals to violate sincerely held religious beliefs. We will continue to fight to protect religious liberty,” Jindal spokesman Mike Reed told the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday.
What that means, according to the Times-Picayune, is that an executive order from Governor Jindal’s office, “as well as state and federal law will protect clerks and state employees who have moral objections to gay marriage and don’t feel comfortable handing out licenses to same-sex couples.”
As Jindal runs for president in the Republican primary, this decision to fight back may help him.
Texas and Mississippi are also pushing back from the state level–making the fight against the Supreme Court’s ruling a bipartisan one.
Mississippi’s Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood, according to the Los Angeles Times, says this Supreme Court ruling doesn’t mean gay couples can marry in his state right now. Hood, who the Los Angeles Times in a lengthy piece this weekend failed to mention even one time is a Democrat and not a Republican, “declared that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right would not be observed in the Magnolia State.”
“Mississippi’s decision on Friday, after just three same-sex weddings, underscores the tortuous road to gay marriage in America, and shows that even a ruling by the nation’s highest court cannot force immediate change where opposition is so deeply entrenched,” the Los Angeles Times says. “Hood said the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling would not be effective until the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals gives gay weddings the go-ahead. Nobody knows when or even if that will happen, leaving same-sex couples and court clerks in limbo.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, joined Democrat Hood and Republican Jindal’s office with a statement over the weekend standing up for traditional marriage and noting that religious liberty allows officials statewide to reject providing marriage licenses to gay couples.
“Friday, the United States Supreme Court again ignored the text and spirit of the Constitution to manufacture a right that simply does not exist,” Paxton said on Sunday.
In so doing, the Court weakened itself and weakened the rule of law, but did nothing to weaken our resolve to protect religious liberty and return to democratic self-government in the face of judicial activists attempting to tell us how to live. “Indeed, for those who respect the rule of law, this lawless ruling presents a fundamental dilemma: A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is considered the law of the land, but a judge-made edict that is not based in the law or the Constitution diminishes faith in our system of government and the rule of law. Now hundreds of Texas public officials are seeking guidance on how to implement what amounts to a lawless decision by an activist Court while adhering both to their respective faiths and their responsibility to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution.
Paxton continued in his statement by noting that the Supreme Court ruling does not in fact force anyone with a religious liberty objection to issue a marriage license to any gay couple in Texas.
“County clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case,” Paxton said, quoting an official opinion from his office in response to the Supreme Court ruling.
Justices of the peace and judges similarly retain religious freedoms, and may claim that the government cannot force them to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies over their religious objections, when other authorized individuals have no objection, because it is not the least restrictive means of the government ensuring the ceremonies occur. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.
Paxton concluded his statement by noting that Texans who choose to defend their religious liberty by not issuing gay marriage licenses may face fines or litigation, but there are plenty of lawyers—including many on a pro-bono basis—who stand ready to defend them.
“It is important to note that any clerk who wishes to defend their religious objections and who chooses not to issue licenses may well face litigation and/or a fine,” Paxton said.
But, numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs, in many cases on a pro-bono basis, and I will do everything I can from this office to be a public voice for those standing in defense of their rights. Texas must speak with one voice against this lawlessness, and act on multiple levels to further protect religious liberties for all Texans, but most immediately do anything we can to help our County Clerks and public officials who now are forced with defending their religious beliefs against the Court’s ruling.