Meet Russ Towers. He’s the only openly gay county clerk in the entire state of Texas and the first out official in Lamar County. He’s also, wait for it, a Republican.
“I’m pretty sure there have been whispers behind my back,” he recently told the Texas Observer, “but one thing life has given me is very thick skin, and I’m not offended or my feelings don’t get hurt very easily.”
While some stubborn Texas clerks are still refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, 39-year-old Towers began happily marrying same-sex couples the instant same-sex marriage was made legal on June 26.
“For me, it was very surreal, because it was something that I never thought I would see in my lifetime,” he said, “but to be on the other side of the counter, to be the one issuing, made it especially special for me. It was probably one of the proudest moments and days that I’ve ever had professionally.”
When asked about his colleagues who continue to deny marriage licenses to gay couples, Towers replied, “It makes me sad. We’re all clerks, and we all take the same oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, the laws of the United States and of the state, and that doesn’t apply to do just some people or the lifestyles with which you agree.”
Towers is up for re-election next year, but he’s not too concerned about a Republican primary challenger using his sexual orientation against him.
“I’m not going to put too much worry into it,” he said, “because I’m not about to go changing who I am or altering who I am or try to hide who I am in order to just win an election.”
“I am out, and nothing will ever change that. I suppose that could make some people uncomfortable, but I think most people who are active voters can recognize the changes that I made as an elections administrator to improve their voting experience, and maybe that will be enough to sway them to trust me in the job that I do as county clerk.”