East Texas same-sex couple sues after being denied marriage license

Published: Jun. 26, 2015 at 10:27 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2015 at 2:01 AM CDT
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Couple says the Supreme Court now says they can get married. (Source: KLTV staff)
Couple says the Supreme Court now says they can get married. (Source: KLTV staff)

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - After a historic Supreme Court ruling, making same sex marriage legal in all fifty states, couples across the country flocked to courthouses to be legally married.

Despite the ruling, an East Texas County Court will not be issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Smith County Clerk Karen Phillips said they first need new paperwork that is not gender specific. The current application is a state form that cannot be altered in any way, said Phillips.

The current state application has fields for male and female, an issue Karen Wilkerson and her fiancé Jolie Smith say is merely administrative.

In the Smith County vital statistics office, the couple completed the marriage application and attempted to turn it in to the clerk.

“[Male] is not something I can white out because that's a legal form,” said Phillips to the couple. “This is a state form and I can't do anything without a state form.”

"Is the purpose of Smith County to obstruct the law of the land for administrative purpose?" Wilkerson asked.

She then offered that other counties in Dallas and Austin were issuing licenses in Texas.

PHILLIPS: "Well, they may be doing that but I don't want to have to call up a bunch of people saying we have to redo this."

WILKERSON: "I'm willing to redo it."

PHILLIPS: “Well, I'm not.”

WILKERSON: “I want you to act in your capacity as county clerk and follow the law of the United States government"”

Phillips went on to explain that an incorrect form could jeopardize the legality of the marriage. In addition, marriage licenses are entered into a software system that also does not recognize non-gender specific information.

Smith and Wilkerson waited in the courthouse an hour and returned later in the afternoon in an attempt to get the clerk's office to accept the application.

"To see another couple be able to get their license,” Smith said tearfully as a heterosexual couple received their marriage license. “And now the Supreme Court says we can, but [the heterosexual couple] can walk out of here with one and we can't.”

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