By Devin Corbitt, The Belton Journal
After a United States Supreme Court ruling on Friday, the entire nation was required to begin issuing marriage licenses to all couples who applied, regardless of the particular gender makeup of the couples. For some in Texas, however, this ruling was not final.
As they awaited word from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday, many counties, including Bell County, put marriage licenses on hold for all couples. According to statements issued by Paxton later that day, county clerks could deny same-sex couples a marriage license on religious grounds.
Bell County officials deliberated this issue over the weekend, reaching a decision late Sunday. According to the county clerk’s website, the county chose not to defy the Supreme Court because “the costs of defending such a lawsuit and the potential for damages would be substantial. I cannot do that to our taxpayers.”
As such, Monday morning brought the first same-sex couple to the Bell County Clerk’s office to apply for their license. Belton residents Tracy McLoud and Roxann Patrick were at the door at 8 a.m. alongside family and friends.
The couple initially tried to apply on Friday after the Supreme Court ruling and were denied.
“We got here about 1:30 with our $67, our drivers licenses and a couple of friends and family,” McLoud said during an interview with KCEN. “There was a form on the window that basically said that they would not be issuing licenses; they were waiting for direction from their legal counsel. (We) waited for a while because the clerk at the window thought they may receive word and permission later that day to go ahead and issue licenses.”
But the couple did not lose hope. Instead, they began proactively seeking out their legal options.
“When we were denied on Friday, the Stonewall Democrats helped us come up with a plan to get our license. We contacted legal council, and we were prepared to take legal action if we were denied again today (Monday),” McLoud said.
Before departing to begin planning their wedding, Patrick and McLoud thanked their friends and family and the Stonewall Democrats for their support.
Since their decision to issue marriage licenses to all couples, the Bell County Clerk’s office has issued 71 license, 16 of which were same-sex couples, according to the County Clerk’s office late Wednesday morning. Two Bell County Justices of the Peace, Ted Duffield and Don Engleking, have decided not to conduct any marriage ceremonies following the Supreme Court’s decision.
For more information on the Bell County Clerk’s position, visit http://www.bellcountytx.com/county_government/county_clerk.