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GOP Lt. Gov. Candidate Todd Staples Attacks Travis County Judges for Supporting Marriage Equality

by: Katie Singh

Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 11:00 AM CST

For the past 25 years, it has been an Austin tradition to hold free courthouse weddings on Valentine's Day. This year, Travis County Judge Judge John Lipscombe and his wife retired Judge Jan Breland, who were officiating the ceremonies, decided to make the tradition a little more inclusive. The judges offered to perform free commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples, inviting them to share in the loving spirit of the day.

Unfortunately, this didn't sit well with some people, including current Agriculture Commissioner and Republican canididate for Lieutenant Governor Todd Staples. Staples sponsored the amendment to the Texas Constitution that defined marriage as between one man and one woman that was approved by voters in 2005. In the Lt. Gov. race, the amendment has become an important part of Staples' conservative credentials.

Not one to pass up an opportunity to rile up his conservative base before early voting, Staples condemned the Travis County judges' effort to make this Valentine's Day more equal.

Read what Todd Staples had to say about marriage equality after the jump.

In a statement, Staples reiterated his commitment to "family values"slammed the Travis County judges for "mocking the state constitution:"

"As the sponsor of the constitutional amendment defining marriage in Texas as between one man [and] one woman, I believe it's wrong for a sitting judge to hold a ceremony mocking our state constitution. It is the responsibility of our judges to uphold the rule of law and every Texan should be upset with this clear attempt to use their trusted position as a seat for activism. This issue has been decided by 76 percent of Texas voters who stood with me in protecting traditional family values."

Staples wasn't the only Republican Lt. Gov. candidate who spoke against marriage equality. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson didn't understand why anyone would offer same-sex couples equal rights unless it was a publicity stunt. Said Patterson, "Other than to get more votes in Travis County, I don't know why any judge in this state would be doing that. Marriage is between one man and one woman. Period." Apparently Patterson isn't aware that Travis County has been registering same-sex partnerships since 1993, not just during election seasons.

Judge John Lipscombe had his own response to the Republicans who didn't support including same-sex couples on Valentine's Day, pointing out that equal protection is guaranteed by the US Constitution:

"As a sitting judge, I can't comment on the law itself. But I will say that federal courts recently have held those laws in other states to be unconstitutional, I think, partially under the 14th Amendment. So, before they have such a blistering attack, I would invite them to go back and read their Constitution again."

No same-sex couples ended up showing up to get married last Friday. But the discussion of marriage equality in Texas is just beginning. Wendy Davis recently voiced her support for allowing same-sex couples to marry. Todd Staples' constitutional amendment is currently being challenged in federal court. The GOP can complain about same-sex couples getting equal rights, but they are going to have to get used to it--marriage equality is here to stay.

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