Texas Judge Does Not Have Religious Freedom Right To Deny Service To Same-Sex Couples, Says Americans United

http://auhouston.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/1602.07TXJudgeDoesNot2.jpgTX Judge Does Not Have ‘Religious Freedom’ Right To Deny Service To Same-Sex Couples

Dallas County Official Cannot Impede Marriages Of Any Qualified Couples, Church-State Watchdog Group Says

Feb 6, 2016

A Mesquite, Texas, judge who announced that he will not serve same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses is in danger of violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says.

In a letter sent today, Americans United explained that government employees responsible for performing duties related to marriage are not permitted to pick and choose which couples they serve.

“If you’re getting paid by the government to do your job, then you have to do that job on behalf of everyone,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “There are no exceptions. Just because you don’t agree with marriage equality doesn’t mean you have the right to discriminate against other people.”

The letter was prompted by a post on the Facebook page of Judge Bill Metzger, a Dallas County justice of the peace, who wrote that he “will only be conducting traditional marriages.”

Click image for complete letter

Click image for complete letter

Americans United noted in the letter to Metzger that government employees who refuse to marry same-sex couples cannot obtain legal cover for their discriminatory action simply by asking another employee to undertake the task.

“A government employee may not remain on marriage duty while refusing to serve same-sex couples,” asserts the letter. “Government employees may not, under any circumstances, ask same-sex couples to visit another office, come back later or another day, or obtain service from someone else. Imposing such burdens on a same-sex couple demeans and stigmatizes the couple in a manner that violates the Constitution and other laws. And this unequal treatment could also subject you and your office to liability.”

This action is part of Americans United’s Protect Thy Neighbor project, which seeks to stop religion-based discrimination against LGBT persons and others.

“As Kim Davis and others have learned, government officials cannot block marriage equality on account of their religious beliefs,” said Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Gregory M. Lipper. “It’s been more than seven months since the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, and it’s time for the few remaining holdouts to get the message.”

The letter was written by Lipper, Americans United Legal Director Richard B. Katskee, and Legal Fellow John McGinnis.