As Americans were celebrating freedom on the nation’s 239th birthday last weekend, a county clerk in West Texas was preparing a manifesto defying the U.S. Supreme Court decision that gay and lesbian couples have the freedom to marry under the U.S. Constitution. Then on Sunday the clerk, Molly Criner of Irion County near San Angelo, posted her manifesto on a listserve for other county clerks. Her screed encourages state officials to disregard the Supreme Court’s ruling:
“[T]he federal Judiciary” has “neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm” and the States, for the carrying out of its judgments, and it is high time that the Court is so reminded.”
Criner goes on to claim that “Natural Marriage between one man and one woman remains the law in Texas, regardless of any court decision to the contrary.” She then declares that as county clerk she “shall resist unlawful federal or state court encroachments upon the prerogative of the People of Texas to protect Natural Marriage, and shall only issue marriage licenses consistent with Texas law, so help me God.” (Click here to read Criner’s manifesto.)
In an accompanying email to her fellow county clerks, Criner calls the Supreme Court’s historic ruling “unlawful”:
“As a country, it’s inherent in our very DNA to stand against unlawful seizures of power that violate our God given rights and liberty. The Obergefell decision looks like just such a seizure. It went beyond the judge’s confined duty of interpreting the written Constitution and established precedents and instead redefined marriage in a way they would like it to be. Natural marriage can be recognized by government, but it cannot be redefined without stepping out of the bounds of nature and nature’s God, who was recognized at the founding of our nation as the very source of our liberties.”
She then goes on to declare her rejection of clerks who have decided to uphold the responsibilities of their jobs and accept the Supreme Court’s ruling as the law of the land:
“I must reject this ruling that I believe is lawless. It’s a scary thing to do, but I believe strongly that I have to stand for the Constitution and the rule of law. … I am imploring the Texas Legislature to exercise its authority under the 9th and 10th Amendments and reject this ruling as being without authority.”
Liberty Counsel, a far-right and rabidly anti-gay litigation group based in Florida, has offered to serve as pro bono counsel for Criner. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Liberty Counsel, which has ties to the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, as an anti-LGBT hate group.
Irion’s county clerk isn’t the only local officials trying to defy the Supreme Court. A gay couple in Hood County near Fort Worth filed a lawsuit on Monday to force the county clerk there to issue them a marriage license. The clerk, Katie Lang, finally issued the license after refusing to do so last week. The anti-gay group Liberty Institute, based in Plano north of Dallas, is representing Lang. Austin attorneys Jan Soifer and Austin Kaplan are representing the gay couple and have said they will not withdraw the lawsuit until Lang guarantees that she won’t delay issuing licenses to other same-sex couples. They also want Lang to pay the attorney fees for the couple who had to sue.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that Hood County has been one center of opposition to the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling. Some far-right activists are trying to force the county’s library to remove LGBT-friendly books from its shelves.