Won’t issue licenses: Denton County Marriage Denied

Published: June 28, 2015

Won’t issue licenses: Denton County Marriage Denied, Denton County Clerk Juli Ann Luke said she will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Denton County – as soon as her office is able to.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, several counties across Texas and around the country began issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

In Denton County, at least three couples were turned away Friday morning. At first, the couples were told outright that their applications would not be accepted, but later a sign was posted with Luke citing a vendor issue.

“We need to address the applications themselves and make sure those are in compliance with the Family Code,” Luke said.

“We will have to adjust the software system itself,” she said.

By Friday evening, Luke said she anticipated her office would be prepared to be able to issue licenses as early as Monday.

In a statement released earlier in the day, Luke maintained that she has no intention of defying the court’s decision. Requirements on the application for a marriage license are both specific and state-mandated, the statement says. The forms cannot be altered in any way, per legal statutes, she said.

This applies to all offices that can issue licenses in Denton County, which include Denton, satellite offices in Cross Roads and Carrollton, and justice of the peace offices in The Colony and Lewisville.

She said her intent is to issue licenses for same-sex couples.

“I’m going to follow the law as I swore to do.”

Dallas County is among the Texas counties that began issuing licenses Friday, and at least one couple from Denton County made the trek there after being turned away in Denton.

Sara Nickell and Laura Hernandez arrived at the courthouse at a little after 11 a.m. to apply for a marriage license, knowing there was a strong chance they would not get it.

A sign taped to the door said the county clerk was deferring to District Attorney Paul Johnson concerning the issuing of marriage licenses. Despite the sign, Nickell and Hernandez and a male couple still approached the clerk’s counter and were turned away.

“I want them to have to say it to my face,” Nickell said. “We know Dallas is issuing them, we will probably go to there, [but] we live in Denton. I have lived in Denton longer than anywhere I have lived in my life.”

Johnson had advised the county clerk of what could happen if she did not follow the law but maintained that the decision to issue licenses was in her hands.

Casey Cavalier and Tod King, who have been waiting 19 years to see their chance to be married to each other, were surprised the county was unprepared for the ruling. They were wary of the vendor excuse.

“I find it hard to believe that they’re not ready,” Cavalier said. “There could have been a contingency plan. I should have brought white-out with me to change their form.

“I thought there would be some feet dragging, but the wording was pretty strong on the SCOTUS decision. We were going to wait until Monday, but because the wording was so strong, we thought they would perhaps be ready.”

Cavalier said it was disappointing to leave without a license, but would wait a few days longer because they want to obtain their license in Denton.

Former longtime Denton County Clerk Cynthia Mitchell said she would not have turned anyone away Friday.

“You have an obligation to uphold every aspect of the office, all of the laws, not just the ones you find favorable or you agree with,” she said. “Being elected is a much bigger responsibility than just doing what you like. It takes leaders with courage to do it right.”

Mitchell said, like Dallas County, she would have been prepared ahead of the ruling.

“One of the biggest aspects of leadership is anticipation and being prepared,” she said. “Absolutely we would have been prepared either way if it had been the same or if it changed. I think it is irresponsible not to be prepared.”


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