MESQUITE — A Dallas County elected official who remains steadfast against performing same-sex marriages is opening the county up to a potentially costly legal challenge.
That assessment came Monday from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, hours after Justice of the Peace Bill Metzger granted his first interview since the controversy broke last week on social media.
Metzger represents Precinct 2, Place 2, which covers the eastern portion of the county in Mesquite.
On Monday, he told WFAA he has no intention of letting a same-sex couple tie the knot in his precinct.
"I feel we do [treat everyone the same]. I feel anybody in Dallas County has the ability to get a license today and get married,” Metzger said. "In our precinct, we exercise the right to our religious beliefs."
Metzger said he is following the legal interpretation of state law issued by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton two days after the historic marriage equality ruling by the U.S Supreme Court in June 2015 legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
Metzger was elected in 2014, and — according to county records — draws a taxpayer-financed salary of $122,000 annually.
It is common practice for JPs to supplement their income by conducting marriages, but it is not part of their official duties as a justice of the peace.
According to a Texas Code of Judicial Conduct revision in 2013, a JP isn’t required to marry anyone... but if they do, they can’t be selective.
“As an agent of the State acting in an official capacity, a judge, when conducting a wedding ceremony, may not deprive any person of the equal protection of the law,” the law says.
Metzger dismissed the notion that he is opening himself and the county up to a legal challenge.
“Absolutely not,” he said.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State disagrees. The national organization sent a letter to Metzger after WFAA's first story about his policy was broadcast last week.
The two-page letter says the judge is violating the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment.
Jenkins said Monday that Metzger’s position could mean taxpayers will have to foot the legal costs if the JP is sued.
“He’s doing a good job of getting his name out in front of people,” Jenkins said. “But he is endangering the taxpayers with a possible lawsuit.”
Metzger said no same-sex couple has challenged his stance, and said he “doesn’t have a crystal ball” on what he would do if a couple attempted to get married at his court precinct.
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