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Meet The New Kim Davis: Anti-Gay Texas Clerk Still Won’t Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

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Molly Criner Compares Her Fight Against Same-Sex Marriage to Standing Up to Nazi Germany. ‘I Just Have to Look at What God Said.’

Back in July, Irion County, Texas Clerk Molly Criner publicly declared that her office wouldn’t issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. 

In an interview with The Christian Reporter News, Criner compared her plight to clerks in Nazi Germany who were asked to collect information about Jews but refused to do so. 

Citing her belief that children are better off with a mother and father, Criner said she prayed about the issue extensively, becoming physically ill and not sleeping for four days. She considered resigning, but after reading the majority and dissenting opinions in Obergefell, she concluded that the court had overstepped its bounds — even though she acknowledged she’s not a constitutional scholar. 

“One of the first things said was that I don’t have to do it, but my deputies can, and I can fulfill my Christian conscience that way, but for me that wasn’t an option when I prayed about it,” Criner said. “I would be delegating my authority — that’s just like me doing it.”

On Wednesday, more than seven months later, at a Texas legislative hearing on the need to protect so-called “religious freedom,” Criner told state senators that no same-sex couple has requested a marriage license in tiny Irion County, which has a population of just 1,500. According to census data from UCLA’s Williams Institute, there were no same-sex couples living in Irion County in 2010. 

Criner said two news reporters posed as a same-sex couple and requested a license in the wake of Obergefell, but she turned them away. She added that she’s torn between state statutes and the Texas Constitution, which contain prohibitions on same-sex marriage, and the high court’s decision declaring those laws unconstitutional. 

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“Am I obligated by law to issue a marriage license? I am. But I’m also obligated by law to issue a marriage license only between a man and a woman,” Criner said. “This is going to be something that violates my oath.”

Pressed by one senator about what she’ll do if a same-sex couple requests a marriage license from her office, Criner said, “I’ll have to evaluate that the day it happens.” 

Republican Sen. Bob Estes responded by referencing the Constitution’s supremacy clause, which establishes that federal law takes precedence over state law. 

GOP Sen. Brian Birdwell pointed to a case in his district, where a same-sex couple sued Hood County after Clerk Katie Lang turned them away. A federal judge ordered Lang’s office to issue the license, and granted the couple a $44,000 settlement. 

“Your testimony, Ms. Criner, is telling of the circumstances we face today,” Birdwell said. “Is ‘supreme’ — in this case talking about the Supreme Court — is ‘supreme’ the adjective of court or is ‘supreme’ the noun? Is the Supreme Court the supreme branch of government and is it functioning within its role and its duties? I’m of the mind that it isn’t, because it’s legislating from the bench.” 

But Birdwell then concurred with Estes, saying the supremacy clause means it’s up to federal officials “to check this the way we’re desiring them to check it.” 

“I don’t have a solution directly to what we share as a concern, Madame Clerk,” Birdwell told Criner. “I do know that right now, based upon your testimony and my experience in Hood County, that those that want a license to be married can obtain it, even if the elected officeholder doesn’t wish to sign it and validate it as a person, that the office can validate it.” 

In July, Criner said her deputy clerks don’t want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even if she delegates the authority to them. She added that because anyone “with 10 bucks and an Internet connection” can become a licensed minister and perform same-sex marriages, clerks are “the last gatekeeper.” 

Criner also made it clear that she’s willing to be a martyr. She said she had considered the potential consequences of her decision, but ultimately they didn’t matter.

“I mean no disrespect to the same-sex couples who wish the benefits of marriage for their relations — no animosity toward them. I just have to look at what God said, and I have to look at the way our Constitution was based on what God said,” Criner told The Christian Reporter News. “I hope everybody really likes me when it’s over, and I hope I still have a home, and I hope I’m not in jail, but I really can’t think about any of that. I just leave it in the hands of God.” 

Watch Criner’s testimony during Wednesday’s hearing by going here, then advancing to the 2:04:00 mark.  

 

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DISASTER

Republicans Boot Only Person With Elections Experience From AZ GOP’s $9 Million ‘Audit’ Fiasco: Report

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Republicans once referred to Ken Bennett as the “director” of their widely-panned audit of votes in Maricopa County, but he has reportedly lost his privileges to even enter the building where the fiasco is taking place.

Bennett, who served as Arizona’s Secretary of State and president of the state Senate, was the one person associated with the recount with experience in elections. He was officially listed as the liaison to the state Senate, which paid $150,000 of the $9 million the audit is reportedly costing.

“Questions are mounting about who is in control of the long-running partisan review of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results — the Arizona Senate, which ordered it, or the outside firms that are running it,” The Arizona Republic reported Friday evening. “On Friday, Ken Bennett, the Senate liaison to the audit, was not allowed into the building at the state fairgrounds where the audit is taking place, a day after he shared data with outside critics from an ongoing ballot count.”

“While this work is supposedly being overseen by Senate representatives, many times that oversight is not there,” the newspaper noted. “The Cyber Ninjas have for weeks resisted getting outside checks of the audit, insiders say.”

Reporter Ryan Randazzo explained why the outside review is threatening.

“The data Bennett provided to outside analysts, Larry Moore and Benny White, showed the results of the ongoing machine count of the ballots tracks very closely with the the county’s tally,” the newspaper reported. “If that trend continues, it may call into question the results of Cyber Ninja’s count, because [Senate President Karen] Fann has said that the Cyber Ninjas’ count did not match the county’s.”

The newspaper reported Cyber Ninjas spokesperson said any decision to ban Bennett was made by Fann’s office.

 

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CRIME

New Details Revealed in Florida Republican’s Plot to Disrupt the 2020 Election

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New details have been released in the investigation of former Florida State Sen Frank Artiles (R) over his involvement in running “scam” campaigns in an attempt to disrupt the 2020 election.

With his trial expected to begin August 30, prosecutors are firming up their case against the former GOP lawmaker in a political corruption case the Tampa Bay Times reports, “has roped in prominent players across Florida over the last several months, including a GOP-linked research firm in Gainesville, a top not-for-profit Miami hospital network and a veteran Republican operative who leads a Tallahassee-based political organization.”

According to the Miami Herald, new revelations show that Florida political operative Alex Alvarado — linked to Artiles — was funneling money to sham campaign officials in an effort to disrupt key 2020 state Senate elections.

The report notes that “documents released late Friday, provide new details into the breadth of the criminal investigation into Artiles and his longtime acquaintance, Alexis Pedro Rodriguez.”

“Prosecutors say Rodriguez was recruited by Artiles and paid some $44,000 to change his party affiliation from Republican to no party to qualify on the ballot and attempt to sway the outcome of the Miami-Dade Senate District 37 election. GOP candidate Illeana Garcia won the race by 32 votes. Rodriguez, who shared the same surname as the Democratic incumbent, received more than 6,000 votes,” the Herald reports. “Between June 15 and November 15, 2020, Artiles was under contract to work for veteran Republican political operative Pat Bainter for $15,000 a month, court documents show. Bainter paid Artiles $90,000 and reimbursed him for his travel, a courier service and $4,000 for ‘research,’ according to those documents.”

As part of the scam, one woman who was pregnant and desperate for money agreed to take $1,500 to chair a political committee with no plans to have her do any work.

In testimony 25-year-old Hailey DeFilippis, explained to investigators she was listed as the chair of “The Truth, a dark-money-funded political committee that spent $180,000 on political mail advertisements promoting sham candidates in key 2020 state Senate elections — two in Miami-Dade and one in Central Florida.”

She was later paid $2,500 more for the “inconvenience” after reporters called up asking about the group.

“Artiles signed a contract with Bainter on June 9, 2020. The next day, Rodriguez met Artiles at Artiles’ Palmetto Bay residence to fill out campaign forms, according to investigators who noted in an arrest affidavit that Rodriguez had ‘no prior knowledge as to what forms needed to be completed to qualify as a candidate for elected office and relied on Artiles’ instructions.,'” the report adds. “Neither Bainter nor Gardner have responded to phone calls or emails seeking comment since the Herald learned they were served subpoenas. The powerful GOP-linked research firm, based in Gainesville, also served as a general consultant for Republican Senate campaigns during the 2020 election cycle.”

You can read more here.

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News

‘You Falsely Smeared My Wife and She’s Getting Death Threats’: Eric Swalwell Posts Angry Texts With Tucker Carlson

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On Friday, The Daily Beast reported that Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) posted screenshots of an angry argument between him and Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who wanted to get him on the phone for a call.

“Tucker, I’m hesitant to do that. You falsely smeared my wife on Tuesday and she’s getting death threats,” said Swalwell, referring to a retracted Fox News story alleging that Swalwell’s campaign funneled money to a business employing his wife. “That’s way out of bounds. She’s a pregnant mom of a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. Hit me all you like. But to go after her. That’s just wrong.”

“Carlson responded by calling the Democrat a ‘coward’ and then apparently phoning him a few minutes later,” reported Blake Montgomery. “Swalwell tweeted, ‘I’m just not that into you.'”

Swalwell, the second-highest ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has long been a target of rage for conservatives. Carlson has also accused Swalwell of aiding a Chinese spy — although experts have made clear that Swalwell in fact properly worked with the FBI to help upon learning the spy had tried to get information from him.

 

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