Constitution

Ken Paxton: Constitutional Cowboy or Rodeo Clown?

I am so tired of Texas politics. Anyone who has met me knows how much I love the Lone Star State, but over and over we are made to look like the most backward, bigoted, and idiotic state in the country. I take personal offense to this. I am not a backward, bigoted idiot. None of my friends fit this characterization, either. But our elected officials are some of the most hateful, inflammatory and misguided people in this entire country.

Yesterday, ironically on the day of the Sabbath, and in his infinite wisdom, Attorney General Ken Paxton made a statement encouraging civil servants in the state of Texas to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples if it offends their religious beliefs. His instructions state:

  • “County clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.
  • “Justices of the peace and judges similarly retain religious freedoms, and may claim that the government cannot force them to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies over their religious objections, when other authorized individuals have no objection, because it is not the least restrictive means of the government ensuring the ceremonies occur. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.”

This is dangerous for a few reasons. Unfortunately for Paxton’s civil-servant followers, if you are an agent of the state or a municipality, you are bound by the United States constitution. Failure to follow these laws opens government employees up to civil rights lawsuits. And in his defense, Paxton acknowledges this dilemma by saying:

It is important to note that any clerk who wishes to defend their religious objections and who chooses not to issue licenses may well face litigation and/or a fine. But, numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs, in many cases on a pro-bono basis, and I will do everything I can from this office to be a public voice for those standing in defense of their rights.

Now, Paxton is not going to pay for your lawsuit, but he seems to suggest he knows some attorneys who may be willing to defend you pro-bono. Good luck with that. And try not to forget, that if you do get sued, you will be subjected to the federal court system. Go ahead, google the average price of defending a federal lawsuit.

Ken Paxton is an attorney. He attended law school at the University of Virginia and practiced at a relatively prominent national law firm before he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. On paper, he seems like a well-educated regular guy. But his actions seem to suggest that he is not. Yes, he graduated law school, but I will tell you this, if he had graduated from my law school, I would be embarrassed. Maybe he just forgot what he learned there. You know, the part about the federal constitution . . .

Ask any first year law student what the constitution says about the states’ obligation to follow Supreme Court rulings. This is not one of those constitutional clauses that has been hotly debated because it is pretty damn clear. The supremacy clause of the United States Constitution states that the “Constitution and the laws of the United States . . . shall be the supreme law of the land . . .”  When the Supreme Court ruled last week that same-sex marriage is a civil right under the Fourteenth Amendment, it became the law of the land. Like it, love it, hate it? It matters not. Your opinion on the subject is yours, but the law and the rights of others are not yours to take away or limit.

You see, the rights of same-sex couples to marry is now vested in them. As H.R. Haldeman said, “You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.” I am so proud of the Supreme Court (which is a very rare occurrence for me). I am proud to be an American, especially an American that will be remembered as being on the right side of history, albeit to the left of my state’s leaders.

Get out there and celebrate love.

Peace and love.