More counties comply and begin issuing marriage licenses

Posted on 29 Jun 2015 at 10:10am
Bell County

Tracy McLoud and Roxann Patrick, the first couple to marry in Bell County (photo courtesy Irene Andrews)

Bell County began issuing marriage licenses thanks to the work of organizer Irene Andrews. Tracy McLoud and Roxann Patrick received their license and married this morning, June 29, in Belton.

According to Lambda Legal Community Educator Omar Narvaez, Jefferson County, which includes Port Arthur and Beaumont, also began issuing licenses today.


BREAKING: Smith County Clerk sued

Posted on 29 Jun 2015 at 8:48am

KarenPhillipsSmith County Clerk Karen Phillips was sued by private counsel, according to Lambda Legal Supervising Senior Staff Attorney Ken Upton. Smith County includes Tyler.

On Sunday, June 28, Texas Atty. Gen Ken Paxton issued an opinion that clerks could refuse to issue marriage licenses if it was against their religious beliefs. However, the opinion also said everyone had to be accommodated, so someone in the office had to issue any couple a license.

County Clerks can he held personally liable for damages if they refuse to uphold the law.

Some counties announced they would begin issuing marriage licenses today. Other county clerks that continue to refuse to uphold the law may also face lawsuits.


Jaster appointed permanent executive director of Turtle Creek Chorale

Posted on 29 Jun 2015 at 8:33am
Bruce Jaster

Bruce Jaster

Bruce Jaster, who took quickly over as interim executive director for the Turtle Creek Chorale following the departure of the previous post-holder in January, has been confirmed as the new full-time permanent executive director, the TCC announced late Friday. The ED is responsible for the management and business side of the organization. Sean Baugh, who was made full-time artistic director earlier this spring after overseeing the most recent season of the TCC since the departure of Trey Jacobs last June, will continue to be in charge of the music, programs and singers.

Jaster received the unanimous support of the board of directors in voting him to the post. He has been on the board himself for 10 years, and spent 15 as a singing member. Since assuming the interim role, he has led the chorale through a dicey period in its history, building up its financial security and “continuing the chorale’s movement toward stability and new growth,” according to a release. Jaster was with Price Waterhouse Coopers before stepping away to take the interim position in January.

“The chorale has been a part of my life since first attending a concert on the early 1980s. To be able to now serve as executive director is a dream realized,” Jaster said.

The chorale is Dallas’ 35-year-old gay men’s chorus, one of the fourth oldest gay men’s singing groups in the U.S. It starts its 36th season Oct. 9.

When I jokingly observed that the timing of the promotion from interim to permanent looked conditioned upon the Supreme Court bestowing marriage equality, the TCC’s director of marketing Tri Truong laughed, adding, “I feel like you can spin it that way.”


Louisiana, a number of Texas counties to comply with SCOTUS ruling

Posted on 29 Jun 2015 at 7:29am

DSC_3858WEBLouisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Louisiana would comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling beginning this morning, Monday, June 29. So will more north Texas counties.

A number of north Texas counties also announced they will comply including Denton. The county clerk in that county gave conflicting reasons why she was refusing to uphold the law on Friday including a computer issue and waiting to hear from the Texas attorney general.

Rockwall’s County Clerk announced on Sunday, June 28, that the county would begin complying with the law at 8:30 a.m. today.

On Decision Day, only Dallas, Tarrant, Johnson counties in the Metroplex and Lamar County, east of Sherman along the Red River on the Oklahoma border issued marriage licenses in north Texas.

Still no word from Collin County.


Couples wed in Dallas after ‘computer glitch’

Posted on 29 Jun 2015 at 7:15am

After a state computer glitch was fixed, Dallas County continued pumping out marriage licenses at a faster pace than they did on Decision Day. Funny how most people thought the “glitch” was intentional, whether it was or not.


Smith County ‘folds,’ agrees to issue marriage license to same-sex couples

Posted on 29 Jun 2015 at 7:00am

Smith County Clerk Karen Phillips

Smith County Clerk Karen Phillips, who was facing a lawsuit filed by private counsel after refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, has folded and issued the license, according to lobbyist/activist/former state Rep. Glen Maxey.

“Damn it’s hard to find a case this morning to sue their asses,” Maxey wrote on Facebook at about 10:30 a.m. today (Monday, June 29). “Smith County folded. Karen and Jolie have a marriage license.”

Maxey also noted that some other hold-out counties had begun issuing licenses: “Williamson County folded. Fort Bend County folded. Bell County folded.”

Other counties out of Texas’ 254 that are already complying with the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, as listed by Maxey, are Bexar, Blanco, Brazos, Calhoun, Dallas, Denton, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Milam, Rockwall, Tarrant, Travis, Tyler, Victoria, Wichita, Williamson.

Check other Instant Texas blog posts for additional counties.

Phillips had initially refused to issued licenses to same-sex couples, basing her decision on an opinion issued by Texas’ right-wing Attorney General Ken Paxton saying that clerks could refuse to issue marriage licenses if doing so were against their religious beliefs. However, the opinion also said everyone had to be accommodated, so someone in the office had to issue any couple a license. Lambda Legal has told Dallas Voice that county clerks can he held personally liable for damages if they refuse to uphold the law.


UT-Austin extending dental and health coverage to same-sex spouses

Posted on 29 Jun 2015 at 6:45am


The University of Texas–Austin announced today (Monday, June 29) same-sex spouses and dependent children will be eligible for health and dental coverage, according to the Austin-American Statesman.

The changes go into effect July 1. Employees will have 31 days to enroll.

During the last legislative session, Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, introduced HB 2692, which would have allowed universities to extend benefits to same-sex spouses. In turn, Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Rosenberg, introduced HB 3890, which would have barred retirement benefits to same-sex spouses. Both died in committee.


Local actress, partner are first to get license in Denton County

Posted on 29 Jun 2015 at 6:30am

W and SDenton County finally began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the first pair to get theirs were Whitney Hennen and Sara Bollinger. If Hennen looks familiar to you, there’s a reason. She’s a talented actress in North Texas, who won a Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum Award in 2011 for her intoxicating ditzy blonde role in Uptown Players’ Victor/Victoria. And she’ll next be seen trodding the boards next month in WaterTower Theatre’s production of Sweet Charity. She and her partner of six years, Sara Bollinger, were previously married outside of Texas.

We already had a story in the works about Bollinger and Hennen, so there’s more to come!


Which county same-sex married the best?

Posted on 28 Jun 2015 at 6:19pm

IMG_0117Marriage equality came to 21 counties in Texas on Friday, June 21. But which county won? And yes, it’s a competition.

Well, we know who lost: 233 counties who elected homophobic county clerks.

Dallas County Clerk John Warren hoped to be the first to issue licenses. While he did issue 170 licenses that day, he wasn’t first. That honor goes to Tarrant County whose clerk was hesitating just a day before. But she opened the marriage bureau window at 10 a.m. Dallas began issuing at noon.

Most licenses? Fort Worth opened early, but because of news of the hesitation, there was no rush. Dallas issued 170 licenses by the end of Friday. But the winner? Travis County, which issued 313 licenses on Friday.

Latecomer Harris County, which relented at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, issued at least as many licenses as Dallas, possibly as many as Travis, but the numbers we have are conflicting and we’re disqualifying them for an award because their county clerk was acting like a prick.

Third award is for most organized. The award goes to Todd Whitley, executive director of Hope for Peace and Justice, who scripted Decision Day in Dallas County from announcement to final celebration.

So the rest of the state will get a good laugh at this, but Dallas simply stayed on script. Supreme Court announcement at 9 a.m. Press conference with pastors and activists at 11:30 a.m. in time for the noon news. Licenses at noon. Celebration at Cathedral of Hope at 6. March down Cedar Springs at 8 p.m. Celebration at the monument to end at 9:07. Yes, that rainstorm that abruptly ended the gathering was indeed planned. Very orchestrated and everything worked in our usual, over-organized Dallas fashion and we’re quite pleased with it.

So what about the 233 counties whose clerks are not issuing licenses? Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton said that’s fine if they’re refusing to issue a government document to some people and issue the same document to others on religious grounds. But he said everyone must be accommodated somehow. How will this play out? Lambda Legal and the ACLU will have a very busy week.


BREAKING: Paxton allows clerks to refuse marriage licenses on religious grounds

Posted on 28 Jun 2015 at 4:48pm
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Attorney General Ken Paxton

Following Friday’s historic Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage, the state’s top law enforcement officer said county clerks and other officials may refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

“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,” Paxton wrote in his opinion. You can read the full statement here.

The opinion released today (Sunday, June 28) comes following a Thursday, June 25 request for an opinion from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Both have stated their opposition to marriage equality and other LGBT issues.