Meet the only gay clerk issuing same-sex marriages in ultra conservative Texas

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Russ Towers says it makes him “sad” that other clerks in Texas are still refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, as he says their job is to marry everyone, regardless of their sexuality.

Towers is the only openly gay county clerk in the ultra-conservative town of Paris, Texas. Hours after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage last month, he was the first clerk to issue marriage licence to a gay couple in the state of Texas. He has issued three more since.

Asked about how it felt to be issuing same-sex marriage licenses, Towers, 39, expressed his pride in being able to do so.

“For me, it was very surreal, because it was something that I never thought that I would see in my lifetime, but to be on the other side of the counter, to be the one issuing, made it especially special for me.

“It was probably one of the proudest moments and days that I’ve ever had professionally.”

However, Mr Towers, a Republican, also highlighted the disappointment he felt towards his counterparts in other parts of Texas who are resisting the Supreme Court’s ruling, as well as Attorney General Ken Paxton for encouraging them to do so.

“It makes me sad,” Towers told The Texas Observer. ““We’re all clerks, and we all take the same oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, the laws of the United States and of the state, and that doesn’t apply to do just some people or the lifestyles with which you agree.”

In the wake of the ruling last month, Attorney General Paxton wrote: “County clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses.”

“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.”

Texas was the state that proposed the most anti-LGBT laws of all last year.

After the Supreme Court ruling, the Texas Governor Greg Abbott was quick to say that he would prioritise religious freedom over same-sex couples right to marriage.

He said: “Despite the Supreme Court’s rulings, Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains protected. No Texan is required by the Supreme Court’s decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage.”