Democrats Call for Republican Bill Metzger to Resign for Violating Federal Law, Oath of Office
A Dallas judge who refuses to perform marriages for same-sex couples but will for opposite-sex ones should resign, according to the local Democratic Party.
Republican Bill Metzger, justice of the peace for Precinct 2 in Dallas County, announced this week on his Facebook page that he won't marry gay couples due to his religious beliefs. He cited a nonbonding opinion issued by anti-gay Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Paxton's opinion, which resulted in an ethics complaint against the AG, suggested that justices of the peace could turn away gay couples based on religious objections. However, most legal experts disagree, saying that if judges in Texas choose to officiate weddings — a duty that's optional for them — they must marry all couples.
“By refusing to officiate same-sex marriages, Judge Bill Metzger is not only violating federal law, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court, but he is also violating his Oath of Office,” Dallas County Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Donovan said in statement Friday. “Therefore, he must resign.”
The Democratic Party's position is in line with an opinion from Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan last year, as well as one from 1983 in which then-Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox said justices of the peace were required to marry interracial couples. Americans United for Separation of Church and State also disagrees with Paxton and sent a letter to Metzger on Friday.
Metzger, a Catholic, hasn't discussed the issue publicly since his Facebook post, and he didn't respond to a phone call and email from The New Civlil Rights Movement.
Metzler's chief of staff, Dwayne Horner, told NBC Channel 5 that no same-sex couple has asked to be married by Metzger since June. Horner also said Metzger posted the policy on Facebook after someone inquired about about it while he was working as a volunteer to clean up damage from a deadly tornado that ripped through his precinct in December.
"He is a regular user of Facebook and uses that tool to communicate," Horner told the station.
Metzger, a tea partier, was elected justice of the peace in 2014, when he ran unopposed in both the Republican Primary and General Election. Metzger also serves on the board of the Dallas County Community College District, to which he was first elected in 2010.
In a radio interview in 2013, Metzger noted his extensive involvement with local tea party groups and said his campaign was "not about me, it's about something bigger." He also said he was inspired to run by GOP Senator Ted Cruz.
"It’s us versus them," Metzger said. "With a leader like Ted Cruz leading the way, I think it’s trickled down to our little part of the world, where we’re willing to stand up and say, ‘Hey, we’re not alone out here.’ ... I'm proud to call him my senator."
At a tea party rally following his election to the community college board in 2010, Metzger told the crowd he was "there for one reason, my lord and savior Jesus Christ."
"I had a Democratic precinct chairman running against me and someone who believes in an alternative lifestyle running against me, and I knew when I started running that this was not going to be easy, and it wasn’t," Metzger said. "There was a lot of stuff that happened, but the whole time I kept my head up high, and I prayed first and I worked second."
In columns published by The Dallas Morning News, Metzger has railed against free tuition at community colleges and called for allowing the open carry of handguns on campuses. He was also the lone vote on the community college board against adding transgender nondiscrimination protections in 2012.
"Today started off with me receiving many negative emails and phone calls," Metzger wrote the day after the vote. "I think we should all be equal in Christ and that we do not need to continue to have special designations for every group who has a grievance."
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat who chairs the Commissioners Court, told the Morning News that by refusing to marry gay couples, Metzger is opening up the county to lawsuits, and that taxpayer money should not be used to defend him.
Ken Upton Jr., Dallas-based senior counsel for Lambda Legal, said in addition to a lawsuit, Metzger could face ethics complaints resulting in his suspension or removal from office.
“If he was really doing it out of conviction, why wouldn’t he just quietly do it?” Upton told the Morning News. “It would probably never get any attention. So when he posts a big article on his Facebook page and makes a specific reference to his Catholic faith and all, it’s grandstanding because he wants the attention and he wants to be a martyr.”
Watch NBC 5's report above.
Images via Metzger's Facebook page