A Texas judge has stirred controversy by denying a lesbian couple permission to have a commitment ceremony in a public space because he “didn’t think it was in the best interest” of the area.
In June, the county received an application to rent out a part of Fort Belknap. The application said it was for a wedding.
“There’s been weddings out there, heterosexual weddings,” said Young County Judge John Bullock.
The application was from a lesbian couple. Because Texas does not recognize marriage between same-sex couples, the ‘wedding’ would not have been considered a legal marriage. Even so, once Bullock found out the application was from two women, he denied the request.
“I didn’t think it was in the best interest of the fort or of Young County,” said Bullock.
The judge denied the request on grounds that the couple had called their service a “wedding” even though the rest of the permission request made it clear that it was in fact a commitment ceremony between same-sex partners. Same-sex marriage is of course banned in Texas.
The judge, rejecting the petition on that basis, claimed he was attempting to ward of controversy.
However, local commissioners, in a 4-1 vote, have now overturned that decision so as to let the unnamed same-sex couple have the ceremony, with commissioner Stacey Rogers quoted as saying, “Even though it may say wedding, this is just a ceremonial process. It’s nothing legally binding. It’s just like a group of family or friends going out there, and you’re denying access to public property.”
Judge Bullock, seemingly not one to be thwarted easily, decided to introduce in a follow-up meeting two motions for a vote, one to give him the power to restrict the use of county-owned property based on “legal, ethical, or practical” concerns or because of concerns that the request conflicts with the American Constitution or the Constitution of “the great State of Texas,” and another policy change to require that Fort Belknap, where the couple wanted to hold their service, be reserved only for ”ceremonies involving weddings, marriages, or any other nuptial activity.”
The measures were rejected at a meeting on Monday night on grounds that they were unduly vague and were lawsuits waiting to happen.
The couple, in the meantime, chose to hold their commitment ceremony elsewhere.