North Texas Daily

Denton County begins issuing same-sex marriage licenses

Denton County begins issuing same-sex marriage licenses

June 29
08:25 2015

Edward Balusek | Editor-in-chief

Dalton LaFerney | News Editor

The first same-sex couple has been given a marriage license by Denton County Clerk Juli Luke, following Friday operations that turned at least three couples away.

Whitney Hennen and Sara Bollinger, both UNT alumnae, was the first couple in the county to receive their marriage license, though another couple, who did not talk to reporters, had their paperwork processed before Hennen and Bollinger.

On Friday, Luke’s office did not distribute marriage licenses, claiming an issue needed to be worked out with the documents.

“The original form is a government-provided form,” Luke said. “It’s a criminal offense to change the form. It could have potentially made the application void. They emailed us the new forms on Friday night.”

As of Monday, the new documents read “Applicant One” and “Applicant Two.” The paper work associated with the marriage licenses was taking longer than usual, but same-sex couples were receiving  them.

On Sunday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared religious objections a legitimate excuse for county clerks and their staffs denying licenses to same-sex couples.

Denton County Clerk Juli Luke said she is opposed to gay and lesbian couples getting married for religious reasons, but maintained her personal beliefs cannot prevent her from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.marriageequality_web2

Whitney Hennen, left, and Sara Bollinger can barely contain their excitement after walking out of the county clerk’s office with the first same-sex marriage license. 

“Moreover, my faith in Christ ensures I have compassion and respect for those who feel differently,” she wrote in a statement.

Her decision comes a day after Paxton’s legal opinion was released. In response to a request made by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Paxton wrote an opinion that discusses the First Amendment rights of county clerks and their staffs in regards to same-sex marriage licenses.

Paxton writes that the high court’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges does not reduce the rights of religious liberty of county clerks, and says the new law “should peaceably coexist with longstanding constitutional and statutory rights, including the rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of speech.”

The 5-4 Supreme Court decision that ruled the Constitution grants same-sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states is mostly examined through the Fourteenth Amendment.  But Paxton, like Gov. Greg Abbott, says religious liberties are violated when those opposed to same-sex marriage are forced to give licenses to couples.

Featured Image: Protesters stand outside the Denton County Courthouse in opposition of county clerk Juli Luke’s decision to deny marriage licenses for same-sex couples on June 26. Denton County has since received updated applications and is now issuing marriage licenses. 

Photos by Edward Balusek | Editor-in-Chief & Hannah Ridings | Visuals Editor

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