GRANBURY, Texas — Two homosexual men have reached a settlement with officials at a Texas county following their initial lawsuit over the clerk’s refusal to issue them a “marriage” license because of her Christian convictions.
Hood County officials have agreed to pay nearly $44,000 in attorney’s fees for Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton, two men who sought to obtain a license in June following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, and sued the county clerk for refusing to issue the document.
According to reports, Hood County Clerk Katie Lang initially declined to provide the license due to her identity as a Christian. She posted on the county website that she “will not be issuing same-sex marriage licenses due to [her] religious convictions.”
“I am grateful that the First Amendment continues to protect the sincerely held religious beliefs of public servants like me,” her statement, which remains posted, reads. “As Justice Kennedy stated, ‘it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.’”
The men continued to come to the office to request the document, but were repeatedly denied. Cato and Stapleton then hired an attorney, who then sent a demand letter to Lang and personally met with her, threatening that if she did not provide the license, she would face a lawsuit.
According to the Courthouse News Service, prior to the lawsuit being filed, Lang changed her mind, stating that her office would issue the documents when the new forms arrived. After she again turned away the men, advising that it would take up to three weeks for the forms to come in, Cato and Stapleton filed a lawsuit.
Hours later, Lang provided them with the requested license on the county’s existing forms.
Now, the men have agreed to drop the lawsuit if the county pays for their legal fees. They state that they have decided not to pursue emotional damages, but claim that they were subjected to a “malicious delay” in the issuing of the document, and suffered “significant emotional and mental distress” over the incident.
“Hood County’s potential financial exposure for damages and attorneys’ fees in the lawsuit exceeded half a million dollars, not including the amount the county would have had to pay its own lawyers to defend this case,” attorneys for Cato and Stapleton wrote in a press release on Monday.
A portion of the attorney’s fees collected will be donated to a Texas homosexual activist organization.
As previously reported, a Christian county clerk in Kentucky is currently defying a court order to issue same-sex “marriage” licenses as her attorneys appeal the ruling. U.S. District Judge David Bunning declared last Wednesday that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis must issue the licenses despite her Christian convictions.
He essentially stated that Davis may have the free exercise of religion in her private life, but cannot live out her convictions while serving as clerk. While on the job, Bunning limited Davis’ Christianity to head knowledge about homosexuality as opposed to a whole-life identity that excludes her from being a facilitator of other men’s sins. (1 Timothy 5:22)
“Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs,” he wrote. “She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County jail. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County clerk.”
“Kim Davis cannot license something that is prohibited by her religious convictions,” said Mat Staver for the legal group Liberty Counsel. “To provide a license is to provide approval and places a legal authority behind what is being licensed. The First Amendment protects actions and not mere thought. Kim Davis should not be forced to violate her religious beliefs.”