Harris County attorney issues legal opinion on same-sex marriages

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015
A same-sex couple at the Harris County courthouse today, June 26, 2015.
A same-sex couple at the Harris County courthouse today, June 26, 2015.

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan issued a legal opinion today saying any Texas judge or justice of the peace who performs marriages must also perform them for same-sex couples.

"It's all or nothing," Ryan said. "Judges and JPs are not required to perform marriages. However, if they perform marriages for anyone, they cannot legally discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to perform only those marriages. Everyone must be treated the same under the law."

Read the full opinion.(PDF)

The opinion comes after Ryan's office says they issued a memo last Friday advising the Harris County Clerk's Office to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In the opinion released today, Ryan addressed the issue of the county clerk or deputy clerks having a religious objection to issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple, saying, "a clerk without objections must be found to issue a license to a same-sex couple. However, if no other such employees are available, then the clerk is required by law to perform the duty of issuing the marriage license despite the objections."

"The U.S. Supreme Court has said that the right to marry is a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution and that it applies equally to all couples who seek to marry," Ryan said. "The right to marry is also derived from the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment. Bottom line: same-sex couples are equal under the law and that is now the law of the land."