Lawmakers file bills to move marriage license distribution to Secretary of State's office

AddThis

Sarah Goodfriend (left) and Suzanne Bryant celebrate their marriage at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. A public celebration centered around the couple, who obtained Texas’ first same-sex marriage license.
Sarah Goodfriend (left) and Suzanne Bryant celebrate their marriage at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. A public celebration centered around the couple, who obtained Texas’ first same-sex marriage license.

One day after the Travis County clerk issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple, two state lawmakers filed bills that would grant the secretary of state the power to issue marriage licenses rather than county clerks.

Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and Rep. Cecil Bell (R- Mongolia) filed legislation 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 clerk’s offices.

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.

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant married Thursday, making them the first same-sex couple to get married in Texas. Hours after the ceremony, the Texas Supreme Court, under the order of Attorney General Ken Paxton, issued a stay that prevented other same-sex couples in Texas from marrying.

Perry said, in a statement, 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.”

According to the bill, the secretary of state withholds the right to “withdraw authorization” of a county clerk if they issue a license to a same-sex couple.

The bill prevents local funds from being used to license, register, certify or support a same-sex marriage or to enforce an order to recognize a same-sex marriage. It also prohibits a government official from recognizing a same-sex marriage.

Equality Texas issued an action report in response to the legislation, calling for Texans to urge elected officials to oppose the bills.

“Tell Sen. Charles Perry and Rep. Cecil Bell that Texas and Texans respect the constitution, respect the rule of law, and respect the right of loving couples to make their own decisions absent unnecessary government intervention,” the statement said.