Dallas County JP refuses to conduct same-sex weddings

Dallas County JP Bill Metzger

Dallas County JP Bill Metzger

Dallas County Justice of the Peace Bill Metzger wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday that he will only conduct marriages between a man and woman.

“Because of my faith in God as a devout Catholic, I will only be conducting traditional marriages,” Metzger’s wrote.

He cited a nonbinding opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued last June that county employees, including clerks and judges, may refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if issuing those licenses would go against their “deeply held religious beliefs.”

But retired Dallas County district judge John Cruezot told WFAA Metzger’s position may not hold up to a legal challenge.

“You don’t have to do any marriages, nobody can compel you to do a marriage,” Cruezot said.  “However, once you take on one set of individuals, you have to do it for everyone.”

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has also issued an opinion, following the Obergefell decision last summer, countering Paxton’s opinion.

“A judge or justice of the peace is authorized to perform a marriage but is under no obligation to do so. However, once the judge elects to undertake the performance of marriages, the service must be offered to all (including same-sex couples) in a non-discriminatory manner,” Ryan wrote in his opinion.

During the summer, some county clerks around the country initially refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on their religious opposition to same-sex marriage.

Hood County Clerk Katie Lang in Texas posted on the front page of her website, “I will be not be issuing same sex marriage license’s due to my religious convictions.”

Lang later relented, saying she would personally not issue licenses but that someone in her office would.

Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, defying multiple court rulings, was jailed for refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples based on her religious convictions.

Davis’ supporters tried to compare, wrongfully, Davis to Dallas County District Judge Tonya Parker who announced in 2012 she would not perform weddings for any couple

But as my colleague David Taffet explained, Parker is not required to perform marriages; Davis is required to issue licenses:

Tonya Parker was elected to be a judge of the 116th Civil District Court. That court hears cases involving civil rather than criminal or family matters in which damages involved are more than $200. As a perk of her office, Parker may perform marriages. Performing marriage is not a duty of her office. She was elected to hear civil cases in her court.

Kim Davis, however, was elected to issue vital documents. That’s what a county clerk does. Kentucky law doesn’t say she may issue marriage licenses. Kentucky law says that’s what a county clerk does. She doesn’t get to issue them as a perk or if she decides to issue them. To refuse is refusing to do her job.

Metzger’s decision has yet to be challenged in court.

—  James Russell

DCCCD adds trans protections

LGBT community activists celebrate after DCCCD adopted new nondiscrimination policies on Tuesday

The Dallas County Community College District trustees voted during their monthly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3, to add gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policies.

Three policies were amended by the board. The first covers employees. Two others protect students.

The student policies added the wording into the school’s nondiscrimination policy and the student code of conduct.

After five speakers addressed the board and another five were scheduled to speak, board Chair Jerry Prater told the crowd that attended to support the policy, “We have gotten your message loud and clear.”

The protections passed by a vote of four to one. Trustee Bill Metzger was the only one to vote against the changes. Two trustees were absent, but would have probably voted for passage, according to staff who had worked on the measures.

DCCCD becomes the third community college in the state after San Jacinto College and Houston Community College to add trans protections. The Dallas school is the largest college in the state.

See this Friday’s Dallas Voice for additional coverage.

—  David Taffet