Texas attorney general asks state Supreme Court to declare same-sex marriage invalid

Eleanor Dearman

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton petitioned the state Supreme Court on Friday to declare a single marriage license issued to one same-sex couple invalid. 

Paxton asked the Supreme Court to act after Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant married Thursday, becoming the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Texas. Hours after the ceremony, the Texas Supreme Court, at Paxton’s request, issued a stay that prevented future same-sex couples in Texas from marrying.

“The rogue actions of Travis County judges do not withstand the scrutiny of law,” Paxton said in a statement Friday. “The same-sex marriage license issued [Thursday] is not valid because it conflicts with the Texas Constitution and state law — the license is therefore void ab initio.”

Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Mongolia) also worked to prevent same-sex marriage licenses from being issued Friday. The two lawmakers filed legislation Friday in the House and Senate that would make the secretary of state the only official who would be allowed to issue marriage licenses. Currently, couples can obtain marriage licenses from individual county clerks’ offices.

Under the proposed legislation, the secretary of state would maintain the right to authorize certain county clerks to continue the issuance of marriage licenses under the secretary’s supervision.

Perry said in a statement Friday that his bill will work to protect marriage as defined in the Texas Constitution: “the union of one man and one woman.”

“Yesterday, Travis County officials acted in direct conflict with the Texas Constitution,” Perry said in a statement. “SB 673 ensures rule of law is maintained and the Texas Constitution is protected.”

Chuck Herring, the couple’s attorney, said state officials’ attempts to alter government procedures for obtaining marriage licenses will not ultimately prevent same-sex marriages.

“It’s obviously punitive and retaliatory and it makes no sense to change the system of government we have in Texas, including local control and local authority,” Herring said. “We all know the U.S. Supreme Court is the court that is going to decide any remaining issues concerning the constitutionality of same-sex marriage prohibition.”

Paxton’s filing is without merit and will not effectively void the couple’s marriage, according to Herring.

“We think it is a backdoor attempt to attack the validity of a marriage that has already occurred,” Herring said. “The case is over. The marriage is over and done. Our clients are married and very happy.”