If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the coming days that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wants county clerks to hold off on issuing marriage licenses to such couples until his office has given them direction.
"I remain prayerful that the Court will heed millennia of family tradition, Judeo-Christian instruction and common sense and will respect the role of states," Paxton said in a statement Thursday. "But whatever the ruling, I would recommend that all County Clerks and Justices of the Peace wait for direction and clarity from this office about the meaning of the Court's opinion and the rights of Texans under the law."
Earlier this year, the high court took up four gay marriage cases out of a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court. Its decision, which is expected Friday or Monday, could legalize gay marriage nationwide, overturning Texas' long-standing ban on gay marriage.
A separate legal challenge to Texas' gay marriage ban, which has been on the books for a decade, is making its way through the courts. The Texas case, which was brought by two same-sex couples, is pending before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Texas' ban defines marriage in the state constitution as "solely the union of one man and one woman." If the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage, Paxton said the state must "reflect" on the ruling to determine "how to proceed consistent with the rule of law."
Neel Lane, the attorney representing the two same-sex couples challenging Texas’ ban, said the attorney general will have no standing to delay the issuance of marriage licenses if the Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage is the law of the land.
“Attorney generals aren’t supposed to be in the business of praying but in the business of interpreting the law, and in this case the Supreme Court is going to be quite clear when it rules,” Lane said. “Clerks should not delay any further.”