Texas Counties' Responses to Marriage Ruling Vary

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Jacque Roberts, left, and Carmelita Cabello, the second couple to receive a marriage license in Travis County on June 26, 2015, leave the clerk's office. They had been together 31 years.
Jacque Roberts, left, and Carmelita Cabello, the second couple to receive a marriage license in Travis County on June 26, 2015, leave the clerk's office. They had been together 31 years.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Elated couples across Texas hurried into county clerks' offices Friday to apply for marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Some offices quickly began issuing licenses, including those in Travis, Harris, Tarrant, Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Hidalgo and Midland counties. Other counties — including Maverick, Ector, Victoria, Potter and Bastrop — were waiting to hear from state Attorney General Ken Paxton on how to proceed.

Late Friday afternoon, the state registrar released to county clerks a revised marriage application form with spaces for "applicant 1" and "applicant 2" in place of "man" and "woman." 

In Travis County, more than 25 same-sex couples lined up at the clerk's office Friday morning. Less than two hours after the high court announced its decision, the first couples received their licenses, smiling and waving as they filed out of the office.

 

Jacque Roberts and Carmelita Cabello were among the first couples to receive a license.

"I'm still shaking," said Roberts, 60. "I've been shaking since the order came down."

Roberts and Cabello, who have been together 31 years, said they were grateful same-sex marriage was legalized in Texas in their lifetime.

"It was important for us to do this in Texas because Texas is our birth state," said Cabello, 68. "We wanted Texas to recognize us."

In Harris County, the clerk's office started issuing licenses Friday afternoon. Earlier in the day, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said his office would not begin granting same-sex marriage licenses until it received new marriage forms from Paxton's office because the current ones list "man" and "woman" as applicants. 

Counties that have already begun issuing licenses said they will use the old forms until until Paxton's office releases a new version.

Bexar County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff said last week he expects his office to stay open for additional hours to handle demand.

“We’re going to embrace it and stay open late until everybody who desires processing is processed,” Rickhoff said last week. “I think it’s very hard to predict what the demand might be. There are some counties I think are going to resist the change. The message is that everybody is welcome to Bexar County.”

Paxton's office said he would issue guidance to county clerks on Friday afternoon.

"To be clear — the law in the state of Texas is that marriage is one man and one woman, and the position of this office is that the United States Constitution clearly does not speak to any right to marriage other than one man and one woman and that the First Amendment clearly protects religious liberty and the right to believe in traditional marriage without facing discrimination," Paxton wrote.

In Austin on Friday morning, Victor Ayers, 47, fought back tears as he described his plans to marry his partner, Caleb Nelson, 41, after they obtained their license. 

"I didn't think this would happen in this state," the Austin resident said, explaining he and Nelson were previously planning to marry in Chicago. 

 

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