Legal Ethics

Texas attorney general's gay-marriage advice requires ethics probe, panel says

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will have to respond to an ethics complaint for advising local officials they didn’t have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals reinstated the ethics complaint against Paxton on Feb. 2, report the Associated Press, the Austin American-Statesman, the San Antonio Current, the Dallas Morning News Trailblazers Blog, the Texas Tribune and Courthouse News Service. A lawyer whose firm helped file the complaint released a copy of the order.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that gay marriage is a constitutional right, Paxton issued an opinion that government employees may be able to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses if doing so violates their sincerely held religious beliefs. Paxton also said the law allows but does not require judges and justices of the peace to conduct marriage ceremonies.

More than 200 lawyers signed an ethics complaint alleging Paxton was encouraging officials to violate the U.S. Constitution and their oaths of office. The Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel tossed the complaint, but the appeals panel ordered an investigation into the “possible violation” of ethics rules.

A Paxton spokeswoman said the ethics complaint lacks merit “and we are confident the legal process for resolving these complaints will bear that out.”

Paxton is also facing charges of securities fraud in connection with his solicitation of investors on behalf of a technology company.

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