Marriage rights clash at Travis County Clerk's Office



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Posted on February 14, 2011 at 9:55 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 14 at 11:27 PM

Valentine’s Day is a day when many couples celebrate their love and commitment. Others see it as a day to highlight the lack of equal rights.

It's why people on both sides of marriage rights issue showed up outside the Travis County Clerk's office Monday.

They knew what was going on inside.

“Hello, we'd like to get married,” said Ruben, an Austin resident.

Five couples, including Ruben and his partner Matthew, showed up to request a marriage license. And they weren't surprised at the outcome.

"The state of Texas does not allow us to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples," said the worker sitting behind the counter.

"When our same-gender couples come in today, what we do is we say, 'Welcome. We sympathize with your circumstances. However, we intend to follow the law today. So we will be denying you the issuance of a marriage license if you are a same-gender couple'”, said Travis County Clerk, Dana Debeauvoir. “We do point out though that Travis County is the only place in Texas where you can get a domestic partnership. We offer it to same gender and opposite gender couples. So if their work offers benefits, health insurance, different kinds of insurance to domestic partners you can sign up for our registry here and use that back at your place of business."

"Their hands are tied as far as that's concerned. they have a job to do and our job is simply to call attention to the discrimination that exists within our laws,” said Michael Diviesti of Get Equal. "We know that they have laws they have to abide by, but we feel that by having a presence in these types of situations, we have the ability to at least call attention to other members of the Austin community, and hopefully to Texas and the nation about these types of discriminatory laws."

More than 7,400 companies across the country now offer equal benefits to same-sex partners.          

"I said my taxpaying money should not pay for the benefits that are afforded one man one woman," said Ed Lara who opposes same-sex marriage.

"When it's codified in the law that a thing like discrimination is okay, it tells people that those people are less than human," said Matthew.

Valentine's Day may be known for bringing people together, but when it comes to marriage rights there remains a clear divide.

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