Message to Texas AG Ken Paxton: Obey the Law

by Dan Quinn

Kathy_PressConference_6.29.15

This morning the Texas Freedom Network joined with partner organizations — Human Rights Campaign, ACLU of Texas, Equality Texas — at a press conference to celebrate Friday’s historic decision for the freedom to marry by the U.S. Supreme Court. Among the speakers at the Texas Capitol press conference was Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the landmark case, as well as the four plaintiffs in the Texas marriage case that went to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In addition to celebrating the decision, however, we also issued a warning to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other state and local officials who are trying to obstruct implementation of the Supreme Court’s rulings: Obey the law. Below are remarks TFN President Kathy Miller (at the podium in the photo) made at the press conference:

I’m Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders that since our founding 20 years ago has supported religious freedom and individual liberties for all.

It is truly an honor to stand with these plaintiffs who so courageously allowed their love and commitment to withstand the scrutiny of our courts. Their bravery has brought our country a bit closer to equality.

All of us here, and the thousands of Texans our organizations represent, have been celebrating the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on Friday, a ruling that moves our country closer to the Constitution’s promise of equality under the law.

But we have been alarmed and deeply disappointed by statements from elected leaders – including our state’s governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general – who cynically suggest that the freedom to marry threatens religious freedom.

In fact, the opposite is true. The Supreme Court’s decision on Friday is actually as much an affirmation of religious freedom as it is an affirmation of marriage equality. It requires no clergy to perform a wedding that violates their religious beliefs. But it does respect the religious beliefs of faith leaders who for years have been performing such weddings only to have our state refuse to recognize those religious beliefs.

In fact, last year more than 200 Texas faith leaders signed an amicus brief calling on the courts to rule in favor of the freedom to marry. Now the law of the land respects clergy whose faith calls on them to celebrate and honor the marriages of gay and lesbian couples as well as marriages of straight couples.

It is even more shocking that yesterday Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a formal opinion claiming that public officials in the Lone Star State can ignore the Supreme Court and use religion as an excuse to discriminate and refuse to carry out the duties of their taxpayer-funded jobs.

Not only has Attorney General Paxton decided to ignore the Supreme Court’s directive that gay and lesbian couples deserve exactly the same recognition, responsibilities and benefits in their marriages as straight couples, but he’s explicitly made religion the weapon he chooses to wield in support of discrimination.

Religious freedom means that government must respect the beliefs of all people, not just those of the people in power. To use religion as a weapon to divide us one against another does nothing to further religious freedom. It’s a shameful day for Texas when our leaders take such a hurtful and divisive position.

Let’s be clear: millions of Christians and other people of faith support the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples, couples who want to make a lifetime commitment to the person they love and protect their families the same way everyone else does.

They believe that, as a moral and constitutional matter, no one should be discriminated against because of who they are and whom they love.

So we are all sending a clear message today to public officials throughout the state, from the governor and attorney general down to county clerks: Carry out your duty to uphold the Constitution by swiftly implementing the Supreme Court’s ruling. No obstruction. No excuses. No politics.

And the rest of us will continue to celebrate a new beginning in furthering equality for LGBT Texans.

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