Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s opinion could spark legal battles

Ken Paxton faces first degree felony charges (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Ken Paxton faces first degree felony charges (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The top cop in the state of Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton, says no matter the law on gay marriage, Texans are still protected by the first amendment when it comes to religious freedoms. In an opinion issued this weekend, Paxton said county officials can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on religious grounds.

Paxton’s opinion could be the opening shot for future legal battles in Texas.

Same-sex marriage supporters celebrating outside the Texas State Capitol say Paxton’s comments are misguided.

“Use religion as an excuse to discriminate and refuse to carry out duties of their taxpayer funded jobs,” said Kathy Miller from the Texas Freedom Network.

One by one, each of the speakers called for more federal anti-discrimination laws. Lawyers also stand ready to defend gay rights.

“The Supreme Court did not say we have to repeal the First Amendment just because they issued a decision on gay marriage,” replied Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values. His organization offers legal advice on religious liberties. He says Texans have already called, fearing repercussions. There are still many legal challenges ahead for benefits, private business, and religious viewpoints.

“So all these people rushing to give broad application and analysis to what the supreme court actually said, they need to go read the opinion again,” said Saenz.

For now, chants fill the air over Austin. Soon, lawyers could fill Texas courts.

The fight to restrict same-sex marriages could play out in court, but also in Congress. Last week, two Republicans introduced legislation to protect some groups from losing government contracts or tax exemptions if they oppose same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Texas senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz said he is taking action to try to limit the power of federal courts when it comes to marriage.

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