Same-sex marriages are back under fire in Texas, likely to end up being decided in the courts. New legislation has been introduced which would make provisions for the matter of same-sex marriages to not even be decided in court. Public funds are used to distribute marriage licenses for same-sex couples and to implement court orders requiring compliance in enforcing gay marriage laws. The bill filed Wednesday for the 84th legislative session would attempt to get around the possibility of federally mandated compliance with any federal court rulings in support of gay marriage by making it illegal to use state taxes or local money to issue licenses or enforce those rulings. The bill goes as far as requiring that state courts dismiss any legal action questioning it, awarding legal expenses to the defendants.
State or local employees would be in a terrible bind if the bill were to pass. They would be forfeiting their salaries if they gave out same-sex marriage licenses or took any action to enforce the federal regulations. It would become illegal in the state to follow the laws of the nation. According to a representative from a Texas gay advocacy group, Equality Texas, has stated that this new bill is in violation of established legal precedent. He cited the case of Texas v. White, from 1869, saying that this was merely another attempt to make Texas immune to federal mandates. He said that it would not only go against federal law, but punish those state employees seeking to follow it.
The question of same-sex marriage in Texas is back being reviewed in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday. A San Antonio judge ruled last year that the ban on gay marriage in Texas was unconstitutional, and that appeal is coming around now. It is most likely one of the reasons for the timing of the current bill. It may also be because the question is also being set before a higher authority at the current time as well.
The U.S. Supreme Court will be considering Friday the constitutionality of bans against same-sex marriage. There are 14 states where it is still not legal, and they will be considering petitions from five states where bans have been upheld in lower courts. In October, when similar petitions were set before the court, they refused to hear them, allowing the lower court rulings overturning bans to stand. Given the fact that there is now widespread discrepancy among states, and federal courts across the country are divided, it is likely that this time they will decide to make a ruling. If they do not agree to hear the petitions on Friday, they have until the end of January to decide to do so. Any ruling will be given before the end of the term in June.
There are ten states with active bans on same-sex marriage. They are Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama, South Dakota, Georgia, Nebraska, Michigan, North Dakota, and Mississippi. In Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas, the question is still being reviewed. With same-sex marriage back in court and back in the public eye, it will likely be a hot topic of discussion in the coming months as legislators and jurists attempt to decide who has the final say.
By Crystal Ball
Image courtesy of Erin m – Flickr License