Texas Values Cheers Gov. Abbott’s Signing of County Clerk Freedom Bill As ‘Great First Step’
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill Monday that includes language giving County Clerks the freedom to leave their names off marriage licenses and marriage applications.
HB 555 is a bill pertaining to marriage license applications authored by Rep. Drew Springer and was amended to include language stating that a county can “allow, but may not require” County Clerks to have their names appear on a marriage license application and the County Clerk’s name may be left off the marriage license.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overruled state laws on marriage in 2015, numerous County Clerks have faced difficulty and even jail time after objecting to certain marriages on religious grounds, such as Rowan County, Ky., County Clerk Kim Davis.
“County Clerks should not go to jail because of their beliefs on marriage. There should be no religious tests to work for the government. Now this scenario will become less likely in Texas – and that’s a good thing,” said Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values. “HB 555 is a great first step, and we now hope the Texas Legislature will build on this success with specific and comprehensive religious liberty protections for our County Clerks, as well as Justices of the Peace and other magistrates. We look forward to working with the Governor on this very important religious liberty issue moving forward.”
HB 555 goes into effect Sept. 1.
In the regular session, Texas Values supported and promoted SB 522 by Sen. Brian Birdwell, which gave County Clerks with religious conscience objections the right to not only refuse to sign a marriage license and leave their name off of it, but to defer all marriage license-related duties (including administering an oath, certifying the application, issuing the license, etc.) to someone else in county government anywhere in the state when necessary. Numerous County Clerks and Justices of the Peace presented testimony on this bill in legislative committees. SB 522 passed the Senate but died in the House.
With bipartisan support in the House and Senate, the HB 555 was amended to include language similar to SB 911 by Sen. Joan Huffman. Texas Values also supported SB 911 during the regular legislative session as part of an effort to address a portion of the threat under which many County Clerks and Justices of the Peace operate because of their religious beliefs on marriage.