State Attorneys General Promise to Protect Religious Liberty in Light of Supreme Court Marriage Decision

Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell (R) said the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage may have “overturned the will of the people” of his state, but he can’t find anything in the decision that says the people of Louisiana have to obey it.

So, he didn’t plan to enforce it, at least not immediately.

Caldwell pointed Friday to the Louisiana constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage. It was approved by voters in 2004, with 78 percent of those who cast ballots voting “yes.”

“(The Supreme Court ruling) takes away a right that should have been left to the states. Louisiana voters decided overwhelmingly to place in our constitution an amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman,” said Caldwell.

However, today Louisiana issued its first same-sex marriage license to a gay couple in New Orleans.

Caldwell is one of the same-sex marriage opponents looking for ways to resist the legalization of state-sanctioned gay marriage.

He and others angered by the Supreme Court’s decision said they were outraged as much by what they see as a violation of states' rights as the idea that people of the same sex were marrying.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) complained state officials have traditionally had the right to regulate marriage within their borders.

“Today, a federal court has usurped that right to self-governance and has mandated that states must comply with federal marriage standards — standards that are out of step with the wishes of many in the United States and that are certainly out of step with the majority of Mississippians,” said Bryant.

Jim Hood (D), the attorney general of Mississippi, put a stop to gay marriages before they started in his state, even while same-sex couples were applying for licenses. He did not refer to Bryant’s statement. Instead, Hood said a federal appellate court would have to first lift a hold on a Mississippi gay-marriage case.

“The Office of the Attorney General is certainly not standing in the way of the Supreme Court’s decision. We simply want to inform our citizens of the procedure that takes effect after this ruling,” said Hood.

“The Supreme Court decision is the law of the land and we do not dispute that. When the 5th Circuit lifts the stay of Judge Reeves’ order, it will become effective in Mississippi and circuit clerks will be required to issue same-sex marriage licenses.”

Mississippi State House Judiciary Committee Chairman Andy Gipson (R) raised the possibility that the state might just stop issuing marriage licenses to heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.

“I don't know if it would be better to have no marriage certificate sponsored by the state or not,” he told the Clarion-Ledger. “But it's an option out there to be considered."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) released a statement in advance of the SCOTUS ruling in which he said he was “prayerful” that the Court would heed “the millennia of family tradition, Judeo-Christian instruction and common sense and will respect the role of states.”

Of course that didn’t happen. Paxton expressed his outrage with the Supreme Court’s decision immediately after it was released and said the next battle will be a clash over “religious liberty.”

“No court, no law, no rule, and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Nothing will change the importance of a mother and a father to the raising of a child. And nothing will change our collective resolve that all Americans should be able to exercise their faith in their daily lives without infringement and harassment,” said Paxton.

Paxton also charged the debate over gay marriage has turned into “personal and economic aggression against people of faith.”

“In numerous incidents trumpeted and celebrated by a sympathetic media, progressives advocating the anti-traditional marriage agenda have used this issue to publicly mock, deride, and intimidate devout individuals for daring to believe differently than they do. This ruling will likely only embolden those who seek to punish people who take personal, moral stands based upon their conscience and the teachings of their religion,” said Paxton.

“It is not acceptable that people of faith be exposed to such abuse.”

Today, Paxton stressed that county clerks in Texas do not have to obey the Supreme Court ruling.

“County clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case," Paxton said in a statement.

“Justices of the peace and judges similarly retain religious freedoms, and may claim that the government cannot force them to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies over their religious objections, when other authorized individuals have no objection, because it is not the least restrictive means of the government ensuring the ceremonies occur," he said. "The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.”

He also admitted that county officials who decline to issue same-sex marriage certificates could face fines or litigation. But Paxton said he would do whatever he could to help them.

“Texas must speak with one voice against this lawlessness, and act on multiple levels to further protect religious liberties for all Texans, but most immediately do anything we can to help our County Clerks and public officials who now are forced with defending their religious beliefs against the Court’s ruling," the attorney general said.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker assured his constituents that they could follow their conscience on gay marriage, even if that violated the SCOTUS decision.

“I can assure all Wisconsinites concerned about the impact of today’s decision that your conscience rights will be protected, and the government will not coerce you to act against your religious beliefs,” said Walker.

“I call on the president and all governors to join me in reassuring millions of Americans that the government will not force them to participate in activities that violate their deeply held religious beliefs. No one wants to live in a country where the government coerces people to act in opposition to their conscience. We will continue to fight for the freedoms of all Americans.”

The question of religious liberty will be fought all the way to the altar.

A week before the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage came down, the Southern Baptist Convention announced its members would not marry homosexuals to each other no matter what the Supreme Court ruled.

“What the Bible says about marriage is clear, definitive and unchanging. We affirm biblical, traditional, natural marriage as the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. The Scriptures' teaching on marriage is not negotiable. We stake our lives upon the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and 16 former SBC presidents said in a statement released June 17.

“Consequently, we will not accept, nor adhere to, any legal redefinition of marriage issued by any political or judicial body including the United States Supreme Court. We will not recognize same-sex ‘marriages’, our churches will not host same-sex ceremonies, and we will not perform such ceremonies.”

Brian Burch, the head of Catholic Vote, a lay-run political advocacy organization in Chicago, told the Boston Globe the Supreme Court’s decision was “a cultural assault on any institution or any person that proposes there are limits to human behavior, sexual behavior.”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the Supreme Court decision “a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us.”

“Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman,” Kurtz said. “As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.”