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The Brief: June 29, 2015

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says county clerks can decide against issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they have religious objections, but that if they do so, they should be prepared for lawsuits or fines.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at the grand opening of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's new Austin building on April 21, 2015.

The Big Conversation

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says the state's county clerks could decide against issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they have religious objections.

But if those clerks do so, Paxton wrote in an opinion Sunday, they should be prepared for lawsuits or fines. After the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in a 5-4 decision Friday morning, responses varied among county clerks, with some holding off on issuing same-sex licenses until Paxton offered directions.

Paxton's opinion is meant to provide guidance to clerks, as the Tribune's Alexa Ura reports:

Paxton said that pro-bono lawyers are ready to help such gay marriage opponents defend their decisions. But he indicated that his opinion offered no blanket protections, and said the "strength" of any claim of a religious objection was dependent "on the particular facts of each case."

"Our religious liberties find protection in state and federal constitutions and statutes," Paxton said in a statement. "While they are indisputably our first freedom, we should not let them be our last.”

Paxton's statement is just one of the several defiant statements from Texas Republicans following the ruling. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, told the Tribune in an interview in Iowa that the court's ruling "seeks to force Bible-believing Christians to violate their faith."

And Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement Sunday that he had requested the legal opinion from Paxton, praising him for "his quick and comprehensive opinion on the very important issue regarding protecting public employees' rights."

Trib Must-Reads

Cruz, Rove Spar Over Bush Endorsement in AG's Race, by Patrick Svitek and Abby Livingston — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is escalating a war of words with Karl Rove, a longtime political adviser to the Bush family.

Cruz: Texas Primary is Important, but Campaign is National, by Patrick Svitek — As expectations rise for Ted Cruz's presidential bid in his home state, the Republican senator says the Texas primary is important to him — but that his campaign is already looking far beyond it.

Analysis: When Voters Don't Agree, Leaders Can't Agree, by Ross Ramsey — Can't find consensus among state political leaders in the wake of a momentous wave of news? Maybe that's because they can't find it among voters.

Advocates Call for Release of Some LGBT Asylum-Seekers, by Julián Aguilar — A growing number of asylum-seekers are asking for safe haven based on a factor that isn't usually associated with a need to flee one's homeland: gender identity. In the days before the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark gay marriage case, immigrant rights groups were drawing attention to the plight of LGBT immigrants.

Demand for Bilingual 911 Services Growing, by Alexa Ura — While Texas continues its demographic march into diversity, only one city — El Paso — requires its 911 emergency call takers to be fluent in English and Spanish. Other cities are striving to keep up with the need to handle emergency calls in a wide range of languages.

Court Decisions Give Cruz New Ammo for Old Targets, by Patrick Svitek — PIERSON, Iowa — As he redoubles his anti-Washington crusade on the presidential campaign trail, Ted Cruz is receiving an assist from an unlikely source: the high court he used to argue before.

The Day Ahead

•   The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to release its last three decisions of the term, with cases regarding lethal injections, independent redistricting and mercury emissions.

•   At noon, Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith discusses the major policy debates of the 84th Legislature and how they relate to the state's largest city with state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston. RSVP to join us at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston or watch online.


Gay marriage ruling was 50 years in the making — with important Texas ties, The Dallas Morning News

A week of generational change reflected in court rulings, San Antonio Express-News

Conservative churches confront new reality on gay marriage, The Associated Press

Annise Parker, wife swore not to marry again until Texas lifted ban, Houston Chronicle

Cruz book says his dad asked to fight alongside Fidel Castro, The Associated Press

Ted Cruz and Karl Rove spar over a passage in Cruz’s book, Washington Post

Some Central Texas school districts will get less from state next year, Austin American-Statesman

Texas Defends A Woman's Right To Take Her Placenta Home, NPR

Judgeship vacancies translate into delays, Houston Chronicle

Gun laws prompt review of courthouse signage, San Antonio Express-News

Most education bills got Abbott’s signature, San Antonio Express-News

Donovan beats Quesada to be Democrats’ interim Dallas County chair, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

"I never imagined that his response would be a straight-out falsehood."

— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Karl Rove denying a passage from Cruz's new book, which says Rove wanted him to keep quiet about a donation former President George H.W. Bush made to Cruz when he was running for attorney general in 2009.

Today in TribTalk

What this ruling means for us, by Nicole Dimetman and Cleopatra De Leon — Today is a great day of joy and hope for us, and for thousands of our fellow Texans. The Supreme Court's decision is historic, and it’s a victory for love.

News From Home

•    Legislation related to abortion and gay marriage led to some contentious debates during the 84th legislative session. Use our Texas Legislative Guide to see what lawmakers decided on social issues this session.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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