Lesbian couple denied marriage license in Dallas; 3 arrested at clerk’s office in Austin

GetEQUAL's Daniel Cates, left, speaks to County Clerk John Warren, right, as lesbian couple Hendrix Scott and Jennifer McClusky look on. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Hendrix Scott and Jennifer McClusky applied for a marriage license at the Dallas County Clerk’s office today. More than a dozen people came to witness the couple applying for their license, including nine members of Occupy Dallas.

“I have to inform you that in the state of Texas same-sex marriage is not legal, so we will not be issuing your license today,” an employee in the clerk’s office told the couple.

The couple asked to speak to her superior, and County Clerk John Warren showed up.

GetEQUAL North Texas regional coordinator Daniel Cates told Warren: “We’re asking you to break the law equally. Uphold the letter of the law and stop issuing licenses to everyone.”

Cates claim that Warren isn’t upholding the law comes from the wording of the amendment to the Texas Constitution that reads, “This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

Cates said that the only thing identical to marriage is marriage, which makes all marriage in Texas illegal under the law. Warren disagreed.

“It refers to anyone other than a person born as a man and a person born as a woman,” Warren said of state law.

“We’ll be back monthly until that changes,” Cates said.

Warren spent some time talking to the group and said he personally supports equality. He said not allowing people to put their partners on company insurance policies makes no sense and costs taxpayers money if people end up at Parkland hospital, for example.

When Warren mentioned his religious objection to same-sex marriage, Cates told him: “I can get a religious marriage right now. Lots of churches in Dallas would perform a wedding for me. It’s civil marriage I want.”

Cates, left, gives Paula Blackmon a bundle of cards for the mayor

After leaving the Dallas County Records Building, Cates walked to Dallas City Hall to deliver 400 Valentines to Mayor Mike Rawlings. The Valentines were collected by GetEQUAL and Resource Center Dallas to encourage the mayor to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, greeted Cates at City Hall and promised to deliver the cards to the mayor.

Elsewhere

In Austin, three people were arrested at the Travis County Courthouse according to GetEQUAL state lead Michael Diviesti. Tiffany Bishop and her partner Iana DiBona and witness Brittney Tovar were arrested after the couple was denied a license. The three refused to leave the clerk’s office. Other couples left to perform a wedding ceremony outside the building.

Several couples planned to go to the Tarrant County Courthouse this afternoon to apply for their marriage licenses.

For more coverage of marriage equality demonstrations around the state, go here.

—  David Taffet

AG Brown, couples urge speedy return to gay marriages

PAUL ELIAS and LISA LEFF  |  Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The attorneys who successfully sued to strike down California’s same-sex marriage ban have joined state Attorney General Jerry Brown in urging a federal appeals court to quickly allow gay marriages to resume in the state.

Theodore Olson and David Boies, the high-profile lawyers representing two couples, told the appeals court that same-sex couples are being hurt every day Proposition 8 is enforced and should not be denied their civil rights while the ban’s sponsors pursue an appeal of this month’s decision overturning the 2008 measure that was approved in a referendum.

“Indeed, the only harm at issue here is that suffered by Plaintiffs and other gay and lesbian Californians each day that Proposition 8′s discriminatory and irrational deprivation of their constitutional rights remains in force,” the lawyers argued in a filing late Friday, Aug. 13.

Brown, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, said in a separate filing that there was no reason for the 9th Circuit to grant the emergency stay request because state and local agencies would suffer no harm by being required to sanction same-sex marriages. County clerks across the state already are gearing up to do so next week, he said.

The swiftly drafted legal papers came in response to efforts by same-sex marriage opponents to get the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals to block a lower court judge’s ruling striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional from taking effect this week. If the 9th Circuit refuses to intervene, it would clear the way for same-sex couples to marry starting after the close of business Wednesday, Aug. 18.

Protect Marriage, the coalition of religious and conservative groups that sponsored Proposition 8, has appealed U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s Aug. 4 ruling that found the voter-approved law unconstitutional. After Walker said on Thursday, Aug. 12 that he planned to finalize his ruling on Wednesday at 5 p.m., the group’s lawyers asked the 9th Circuit to prevent any gay marriages while the appeal is pending.

They argued the appeals court should grant an emergency stay “to avoid the confusion and irreparable injury that would flow from the creation of a class of purported same-sex marriages.”

Depending on how the 9th Circuit rules, same-sex couples could get married in California as early as next week or they would have to wait while the appeal works its way through the court and potentially the U.S. Supreme Court as well.

Walker, however, has expressed doubts over whether Protect Marriage has the right to challenge his ruling if neither the attorney general nor the governor elect to do so. Both officials refused to defend Proposition 8 in Walker’s court and have since said they see no reason why gay couples should not be able to get married now.

Although he allowed the group to intervene in the trial, the judge said the appellate court would have to make its own determination that same-sex marriage opponents would be injured if gay couples could wed, a claim Walker explicitly dismissed in his decision invalidating Proposition 8.

The ban’s backers addressed the potential for such a roadblock in their emergency stay request, saying California’s strong citizen initiative law permits ballot measure proponents to defend their interests if state officials will not.

“Proponents may directly assert the state’s interest in defending the constitutionality of its laws, an interest that is indisputably sufficient to confer appellate standing,” they said.

Theodore Boutrous, a lawyer with the legal team representing same-sex couples, said that keeping Protect Marriage from moving forward with an appeal was not necessarily the top priority of the plaintiffs.

“We believe that Chief Judge Walker’s ruling last week on the merits provides a powerful record on appeal, and we want the appellate courts to address the merits of Proposition 8,” Boutrous said. “The standing issue that Chief Judge Walker identified provides another potential weapon in our arsenal that will be part of the appellate arguments.”

California voters passed Proposition 8 as a state constitutional amendment in November 2008, five months after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples already had married.

Five states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa — and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. New York and Maryland recognize those marriages even though same-sex couples can’t wed within their borders. However, the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, nor do the vast majority of states.

—  John Wright