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McLennan County Waits for SCOTUS Ruling, State Agencies Before Moving Forward

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flickr.com/photos/scott_leighton/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)
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The Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling on same-sex marriage as early as June 25th. KWBU’s Carlos Morales reports on what that would mean for McLennan County.   

At question is whether or not the 14th amendment requires states to license marriages between same-sex couples and if states must recognize same-sex marriages that have been lawfully licensed and performed in other states.

Here in Texas, some counties have prepared for the ruling, by making changes to the marriage license application that’s required by state law. The current application is gender specific. But McLennan County Clerk Andy Harwell says he won’t make any changes to the application prior to the ruling.  

"I want to make sure that I’m not issuing or manipulating a document or form by the state and then they, the couple gets married and we find out, wait a minute, there was a problem," Harwell said. "So I want to make sure I cover all the bases legally to make sure that we're able to do it and that we’re doing it the right way."

Harwell says he reached out to the Vital Statistics Unit – the state body that issues the application – for direction, but the unit is waiting for the ruling and its wording to make those changes. That means – pending the outcome – that same-sex couples in McLennan County would have to wait for an official form from the state, unless Harwell is legally permitted to make those alterations himself. According to the Williams Institute, a research facility with the University of California, Los Angeles Law School, there were more than 46,000 same-sex couples living in the Lone Star State in 2014.

The California think tank also also found that there are more than 3 same-sex couples per 1,000 households in McLennan County. Carmen Saenz, the chairperson for local LGBTQ advocacy group InterWaco, says the ruling – if favorable –would be a first step towards full federal equality for those same-sex couples here in McLennan County and across the nation.

“People get married because they love each other and they’ll finally be able to get equal recognition for their marriage – the same way straight couples will be able to get," Saenz said.

In addition, Saenz says, a favorable ruling would mean same-sex couples would be allowed the state and legal benefits that come with marriage. She says the ruling will be a starting point, for both advocates and those who might oppose it.

"It is a wonderful decision to celebrate, but I think we all need to keep in mind that it’s just a first step," Saenz said. "It’s the beginning of our fight towards full federal equality, that it’s definitely not an end point at all – it’s actually a beginning."

And whatever the ruling may be, it appears in Texas that voters are still unclear on whether or not they think same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll found that 44 percent of Texas voters polled say gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry, while 41 percent said no and 14 said they were unsure.