Elections Have Consequences, and So Do United States Supreme Court Decisions
Many recall that President Obama said in January of 2009 that “elections have consequences.” Some took that as a polite way of saying “I won. You lost. You won’t repeal the Affordable Care Act.”
Many will recall that Sen. John McCain said in September of 2013 that “elections have consequences.” Some took that as a gentleman’s way of saying “Obamacare is the law. We don’t have the power to repeal it. Let’s just do our jobs and not shut down the government.”
Supreme Court decisions have consequences, too.
Whether you love the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, or hate it, it’s the law.
On June 28, 2015, the Austin American Statesman reported that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that county clerks and their employees can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on religious objections to gay marriage.
The majority opinion in Obergefell reads:
“[t]his analysis compels the conclusion that same-sex couples may exercise the right to marry. The four principles and traditions to be discussed demonstrate that the reasons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with equal force to same-sex couples.”
There’s no room to shimmy around this language. Same-sex couples have not just a legal right, but a Constitutional right to marry.
I’m not here to talk anyone into changing his or her mind. If you disagree with the Obergefell decision, isn’t it great that we live in a country with free speech? If you celebrate the decision, continue using your free speech to celebrate!
My point here focuses strictly on when there’s room to shimmy past the Obergefell decision. There just isn’t any such room. Not with this decision.
Put another way: if you are a County Clerk and you don’t like this decision and you won’t follow it, then you are refusing to do your job as you swore to do it. Article XVI, section 1 of the Texas Constitution required you to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, so help me God.” The United States Supreme Court has told you what the Constitution means with regard to same-sex marriage. If you won’t do your job, fine.
You have another option: resign and let someone who will do the job and follow the law, whether they agree with Obergefell or not.
The United States Supreme Court is the final arbiter of what the United States Constitution means. The law has been decided. Ken Paxton is mistaken to suggest that you can decline to follow the law. You would be mistaken to remain in your position, but refuse to do your job.