County clerks in Texas with a religious objection to gay marriage should feel free to follow their conscience and not the Supreme Court's landmark ruling, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. In an opinion released yesterday, Paxton said that clerks can refuse to issue licenses to gay couples, adding that although they may be fined or sued for doing so, there are "lawyers [who] 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," the Houston Chronicle reports. "The strength of any particular religious accommodation claim depends on the particular facts of each case," he said.
Critics say Paxton is on very shaky legal ground. "We settled the idea that public officials can pick which citizens to serve or not in the '50s and '60s civil rights litigation," lawyer and equal rights activist Jody Scheske tells the Austin American-Statesman. At least one religious county clerk who had been waiting for the AG's advice has decided to go ahead and issue licenses today anyway, the Dallas Morning News reports. "Personally, same-sex marriage is in contradiction to my faith and belief that marriage is between one man and one woman," Denton County Clerk Juli Luke says. "However, first and foremost, I took an oath on my family Bible to uphold the law, and as an elected public official my personal belief cannot prevent me from issuing the licenses as required."