Texas has issued an estimated 2,500 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since the practice was legalized, nearly 6 percent off all marriage licenses statewide, according to state estimates.
Although applications no longer include gender identifiers, officials base the estimate on “what we can assume from the applicants’ names,” Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The agency maintains vital records for the state and notes about 43,500 marriage applications since June 26, the day the U.S. Supreme Court swept away same-sex marriage bans in Texas and other states.
In Tarrant County, officials received almost 3,500 applications, with about 300 from same-sex couples, a rate of almost 9 percent, the newspaper reported.
“There are many same-sex couples who simply waited until it was legal to seek licenses,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University “As a result, there have been a number of folks who might have gotten married years ago had it been possible to do so who are taking advantage of their opportunity to gain legal recognition for their committed relationship.
“My guess is that the overall percentage will shrink over time from this initial data once the ‘pent-up demand’ has been satisfied.”
Although several county clerks in Texas initially refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples, most of those issues have been resolved.
Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a nonbinding opinion telling officials they could deny marriage licenses if they have religious objections. But he warned that doing so could lead to fines or lawsuits.
Opponents of same-sex marriage discount the data.
“We don’t know for certain how many same-sex marriage licenses have been issued in Tarrant County or any Texas county since the U.S. Supreme Court banned Texas from enforcing our marriage laws,” said Jonathan Saenz, president of Austin-based Texas Values.
“I think a lot of people would be interested in accurate statistical data on same-sex marriage, but I don’t believe we have that option in Texas right now.”
In Tarrant County, the district attorney’s office instructed county clerk workers shortly after the Supreme Court ruling to issue licenses to “all persons who qualify, regardless of their sex.”
State officials say they believe everyone is complying with the law.
“We have not heard of any county clerks not issuing licenses to same-sex couples,” said Williams, from the Department of State Health Services. “They all have the new version of the marriage license application.”