Hopkins County Clerk’s office issued their first marriage license to a same-sex couple Tuesday morning. Applications were made available to the County Clerk’s office through their vender, NETDATA in time for the Tuesday morning request. The Tuesday morning request was not the first request made but was the first request that could be fulfilled.
Even though the license was issued, several who are qualified to conduct the ceremonies have stated they will not. That group includes civil judges who are qualified to perform weddings. Almost all cite religious reasons. Both Hopkins County Justices of the Peace have stated to KSST News Monday that they will not perform weddings. County Judge Robert Newsom, who is the pastor Sulphur Bluff Baptist Church, has also stated he will not perform same sex marriage ceremonies due to religious reasons.
Many religious leaders are tied to their denominational guidelines regarding the subject of same-sex marriages. The Bishop of the Tyler Catholic Diocese has instructed those serving churches in the region to not conduct same-sex marriages.
According to the website of the United Methodist Church for the North Texas area, the Bishop has reminded pastors and deacons that the Book of Discipline for the Methodist Church prohibits them from performing same sex ceremonies and prohibits church facilities being the location of same sex ceremonies. In his letter to churches North Texas, Bishop Michael McKee wrote, “At the Executive Session, I shared that many of you would want to be pastoral with faithful Christians who are members of your churches who now desire to be married to a person of the same gender. At that time I shared the ways you may pastorally participate: attend, read scripture, offer prayer, or give the meditation. United Methodist clergy in the North Texas Conference cannot preside over the ceremony, give the vows or the exchange of rings, pronounce the couple married, or sign the marriage license. If you are asked to participate, please be clear with the couple about what you can and cannot do. Additionally, I encourage you to contact your District Superintendent about your participation and the manner in which you will participate.”
A staff member at First Baptist Church stated that no member of their staff would perform same sex ceremonies and the church is re-writing their constitution and by-laws to disallow such services. Other conservative churches in the Sulphur Springs area oppose same-sex marriage.
The Episcopal Church in the Dallas area, which includes Sulphur Springs, has a statement posted on their website that in 2012, the General Convention of the church “resolved that God’s call is open to all… a provisional rite of blessing for same-gender relationships was authorized…”