Bill to stop issuing marriage licenses advances in Alabama

AlabamaOutlineA state senate committee advanced a bill that would stop probate judges from issuing marriage licenses in Alabama.

According to Associated Press, several probate judges have already stopped issuing licenses to all couples so that they’re not providing those licenses to same-sex couples. Gay and straight couples in those areas must now go to different counties to get licenses to marry. The state senate bill would end the practice of issuing marriage licenses. Instead, couples would go to the same probate judge and sign a marriage contract.

What isn’t clear is why issuing a marriage license in some way supports same-sex marriage and filing a contract signed by a same-sex couple doesn’t support same-sex marriage. Also not clear is whether the federal government would recognize these marriage contracts rather than marriage licenses. Normally a person needs to show a marriage license to have a name changed on a social security card or to file joint federal income taxes. And if issuing marriage licenses is one of the duties of a probate judge in Alabama,  just why is the state allowing some of them to not do their jobs?

Oklahoma is also debating a bill that would stop county clerks from issuing marriage licenses.

—  David Taffet

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

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.

—  David Taffet

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


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.

—  Tammye Nash

Travis County Clerk’s office plans to extend hours if Supreme Court ruling is favorable

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir

If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality as expected later this month, the Travis County Clerk’s office is already planning to offer extended evening and weekend hours to accommodate the expected high demand, according to the Austin Statesman American.

County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir told the Austin newspaper, “We’re hoping for crowds.”

Texas has a 72-hour waiting period for marriage licenses, but that can be waived by a district judge. Judges in Dallas and Austin have already indicated they are willing to waive the waiting period.

DeBeauvoir already issued one marriage license to a lesbian couple after a court order gave them permission to marry immediately because of health concerns for one of the women.

Watch Instant Tea for updates and word from Dallas County and Tarrant County clerks on what plans they have.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Trans widow Nikki Araguz denied marriage license

Picture 17

Transgender widow Nikki Araguz, who plans to marry her fiancé on Wednesday after an appeals court hears her case, was denied a marriage license in Harris County.

Araguz applied late last week and was accompanied by a film crew for a documentary about her story. But Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, after conferring with the Harris County attorney, denied her marriage license application because of Texas’ marriage amendment.

It’s the same argument that lost Araguz her case in 2011, leading to her appeal. A Houston judge said that because she originally identified as male on her California birth certificate, Texas still views her as a male, and recognizing her marriage to her late husband, or now her fiancé, is against Texas law.

“Unfortunately we’re not going to be able to issue this,” Stanart told Araguz.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Activists across Texas stage marriage equality demonstrations on Valentine’s Day

In his post about Tuesday’s Valentine’s Day marriage equality demonstration in Dallas, David Taffet mentioned that three activists were arrested Tuesday during a similar action in Austin. Daniel Cates, a GetEQUAL organizer from Dallas, sent over the below video of the Austin activists singing a rousing rendition of “I’m gonna stand at the marriage counter …” while seated on the floor of the clerk’s office prior to their arrests. Raw Story has a full report.

In Fort Worth, WFAA reports that a lesbian couple was denied a marriage license on Tuesday afternoon.

In San Antonio, same -sex couples participated in a midnight mass wedding conducted annually by Baptist minister Joe Sullivan at the Bexar County Courthouse, despite Sullivan’s warning that they would face “acts of vengeance.” QSanAntonio quotes activist Julie Pousson, who attended the event: “Minister Joe Sullivan said that our couples were there ‘solely to be repulsive,’ and he threatened them with acts of vengeance on the part of God if they did not leave the courthouse steps. Our beautiful couples stood their ground for more than five minutes of hate speech and contradictory logic from the good minister before he finally relented and performed the wedding.”

And in Houston, after being denied marriage licenses at the clerk’s office, a group of roughly 30 activists marched to City Hall, where openly gay Mayor Annise Parker delivered a proclamation honoring Freedom to Marry Day. KPRC has video, and the Houston Chronicle reports:

—  John Wright

Marrying for love, marching for equality

Dallas lesbian couple 1 of at least 5 couples participating in a marriage equality march and mass wedding Saturday in downtown Dallas

OLD FASHIONED WEDDING | Ashlyn Jones, left, and Amanda Evans will participate in a mass wedding in Founders Plaza in Downtown Dallas on Saturday, Oct. 15, as part of a demonstration for marriage equality.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Ashlyn Jones and Amanda Evans are getting married in downtown Dallas this weekend. They invited 50 of their friends, but would like everyone to attend.

“I want people I don’t even know to come and say, ‘Congratulations,’” Jones said. “That would be awesome.”

Jones and Evans are one of at least five couples that will participate in a mass wedding on Saturday evening at Founder’s Plaza in front of the Dallas County Records Building, as part of a protest in support of marriage equality.

Event organizer Daniel Cates said the couples are encouraged to apply for a marriage license inside the Records Building earlier in the week, even though those applications will be denied.

Similar events sponsored by GetEQUAL and P-FLAG are being held in about 10 cities across the state. In addition to the major cities, Harlingen, Brownsville, Huntsville and Odessa also have marriage equality events planned.

Cates said that while Texas is not close to granting marriage equality, LGBT Texans must demand the right.

“Since the New York marriage victory, people in other states are fighting back,” Cates said. “Once we lost the marriage battle here, we stopped fighting.”

Jones said that the Saturday wedding ceremony will also be a celebration of their five-year anniversary as a couple.

“In front of all of our friends, we’ll tell each other that we love each other,” Jones said.

The couple met in high school, and “When we met, it was electricity,” Jones said.

But the two kept their relationship a secret for three years. Their school had no gay-straight alliance, although they attended Teen Project in downtown Fort Worth until that group shut its doors.

When the couple told their parents they were lesbians, Jones said she and Evans were shunned by their families. Although relations have gotten better, none of their family members will be attending the wedding.
Jones said she expects marriage equality to come to Texas

eventually, “But I think it’s an uphill battle.”

Jones said she works for a very conservative company with very conservative customers, and “I had a customer walk out when she heard me talk about my wedding.”

After the downtown event, Jones said she and Evans and their friends will go to Chili’s to celebrate and then the couple will leave on their honeymoon. They’re going to Granbury to relax and get away from work, she said.

“We talked about following this up with a New York wedding,” Jones said. And then she’d like to come home and just be accepted.

“I would love to be able to hold my wife’s hand in a mall without a mother coming up to me and telling me it’s wrong to do that in front of her children,” she said.

Cates said that couples who would like to participate in the wedding ceremony should arrive at 4 p.m. for a short rehearsal. At 4:30 p.m. there will be an open mike for 30 minutes before a sidewalk march.

Cates said that a street permit was denied because the police are stretched thin with the State Fair of Texas and the Occupy Dallas protests. Sidewalk marches require fewer officers.

After the march, two people will speak before the mass wedding takes place. Richard Curtin, better known as Edna Jean Robinson, will officiate. He will conduct a “white knot” ceremony rather than have the couples exchange rings.  The white knot, a symbol of marriage equality, represents tying the knot.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

FAMILY LIFE: Glossary of legal terms

Attorney Rebecca Covell says that to secure the same rights a legally married couple gets with a marriage license, there are six documents same-sex couples need: a medical power of attorney, a statutory durable power of attorney, a declaration of guardianship, a directive to physicians, an appointment of agent to control disposition of remains and a will.

Here are a few basic definitions of those documents, according to Covell:

• Medical power of attorney: This document allows a person to designate an individual who will have the authority to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unconscious, mentally incompetent or otherwise unable to make such decisions.

• Declaration of Guardianship: This designates who gets control over the future guardianship of a couple’s children.

• Statutory durable power of attorney: This documents allows a person to give their partner permission to make business decisions in the event that they are incapable, including decisions on buying or selling property, paying bills, handling insurance and dealing with the IRS.

• Directive to physicians: This document allows a person with a terminal illness or other irreversible medical condition to detail their wishes on end-of-life care.

Appointment of agent to control disposition of remains: Legally, after death, a person’s body belongs to their legally recognized next of kin. This document allows a person to designate the person who they want to make funeral or memorial arrangements and decisions about the care of their body.

• Will: When a person dies without a will, all their property and possessions automatically go to their legal next of kin. With a will, an individual can designate their beneficiary, who is in charge of their estate, make special for provisions for surviving children or a survivor with special needs. A will also allows an individual to designate when specific people will receive specific assets.

Attorneys Christopher Farish and Julie Quaid say that it is imperative that same-sex couples prepare for the future in terms of their finances. In addition to having a will, it is also important for those in same-sex relationships to list their partner as a beneficiary in 401K, IRA and pension if an employer allows same-sex partners to be eligible for spousal benefits.

Make sure to check with company policies on these matters, in advance, the attorneys said.

Here are a few basic definitions of these documents, according to Farish and Quaid:

• 401K: This allows an employee to place money in an account for retirement. The employee can name the beneficiary with 401K plans, regardless of sex or marital status.

• IRA: An IRA, or individual retirement account, is money set aside that has already been taxed. These plans are designed for people who don’t have access to a 401K plan and so are less structured than a 401K. Whereas a 401K plan is provided by a person’s employer, an IRA is something indviduals own. An individual can designate their same-sex partner as the beneficiary of their IRA.

• Pensions: Pensions are regulated, and most of those are available only to a person’s legal surviving spouse. Pension plans, however, are specific to individual companies, and policies are not consistent from one employers to the next. Employers’ pension plan regulations may say specifically say “spouse,” and some may have policies that exclude a same-sex partner as a beneficiary because Texas has a constitutional amendment prohibiting legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

— Draconis von Trapp

—  John Wright

Report: Gay Dallas couple’s Skype wedding declared invalid by District of Columbia

Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

We’ve got a message in to Mark Reed-Walkup to try to confirm what we just read at, which is reporting that Reed-Walkup’s recent Skype wedding has been declared invalid by the District of Columbia.

If you’ll remember, Reed-Walkup and his longtime partner, Dante Walkup, were married in October in a ceremony that was held in Dallas but officiated via Skype from D.C. Reed-Walkup told us previously that officials in D.C. had found nothing in the law that would prohibit such an e-marriage, but apparently they’ve change their minds. Amanda Hess reports at

On Oct. 10, Mark Reed and Dante Walkup made history by marrying in D.C. (where same-sex marriage is legal) at a ceremony in Texas (where it isn’t). The arrangement took some technological finesse: As Reed and Walkup exchanged vows in a Dallas hotel, D.C. marriage officiant Sheila Alexander-Reid oversaw the ceremony from the District, linking up with the couple online via Skype. The “e-marriage” inspired coverage in the Washington Post, CNN, and Time magazine. Now, it’s caught the attention of the D.C. marriage bureau.

“The D.C. marriage bureau kicked back the certificate we had filed,” Alexander-Reid told me today. Alexander-Reid says that she and the couple both received letters from D.C. Superior Court stating that it had determined the marriage license filed following the Skype ceremony to be invalid.

“The return is invalid because it has come to the attention of the court that the subject contracting parties to the marriage and you, the officiant, did not all personally participate in a marriage ceremony performed within the jurisdictional and territorial limits of the District of Columbia,” the letter reads. Alexander-Reid also received a fresh marriage license from the court. Alexander-Reid could use it to re-officiate a Reed-Walkup ceremony, should they choose to marry again in D.C., this time “with all parties . . . in physical attendance.”

UPDATE: Reed-Walkup reports via text message that he’ll call Instant Tea back as soon as he’s done with a CNN interview.

—  John Wright

Stay of Prop 8 ruling prompts protests on a day when gay marriages would have resumed

Nine protesters were arrested Thursday morning following a sit-in at the San Diego County Clerk’s Office, where a gay couple requested a marriage license. The couple had scheduled their appointment prior to a federal appeals court’s decision earlier this week to put same-sex marriages on hold until at least December. Sheriff’s deputies eventually showed up in full riot gear (shown above) to arrest the nine protesters, who are members of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality. More pics from the protest can be found here. According to the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, supporters have called an emergency rally for 5 p.m. outside the jail to protest the arrests and demand the activists’ immediate release.

Meanwhile, up the road in West Hollywood, a rally is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday night at Santa Monica Blvd. and San Vicente Blvd. From the Facebook event page:

Although Judge Walker’s decision was a victory for Prop 8 opponents, the fight is NOT over. Do not let that victorious feeling make you complacent! Let it be known that we will remain vigilant and active until marriage equality is restored in California!

UPDATE: Here’s some video of the San Diego protest:

—  John Wright