250 people gathered at the Texas Capitol Monday, in support of traditional marriage. The event was headlined by Justice Roy Moore, an Alabama Supreme Court Chief. Moore is not shy about opposing gay marriage. He has given Alabama probate judges instructions to refuse to issue gay couples marriage licenses. This is despite the federal ruling that the same-sex marriage ban in Alabama is unconstitutional.
Texas imposed a similar ban that was strongly supported by voters in 2005. Moore supported lawmakers that gathered at the Capitol. These lawmakers included Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Moore told them to stand strong against the federal government, saying that state courts have the same authority as federal courts.
Moore also stated that no court has the right to change what God has proclaimed in Genesis; marriage is defined as a unification between a man and a woman. Moore said that he was in Texas to teach the law. He wants the federal courts to know they have no authority in the area of marriage.
Many people in the crowd had signs that said, “I support Biblical marriage.” Some in attendance argued with gay marriage supporters after the rally. The rally had strong supporters of the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act, a bill promoted by Representative Cecil Bell Jr., R-Magnolia. The proposal had a hearing Wednesday and would prohibit government employees at the state and local level from recognizing gay marriage or allocating a marriage license to any couple “that violates a personal religious belief.” Witnesses gave two hours of testimony that was sometimes emotional during the hearing. The definition of the ‘Biblical’ definition of marriage, the principles of the U.S. government, religious freedom, federalism, states’ rights as well as checks and balances were all discussed in the hearing.
This bill, HB 1745 would give the authority of issuing marriage licenses from county clerks to the secretary of state. This would mean a representative from the County and the District Clerk’s Association of Texas would have to testify against the bill. If this bill is passed, it would cause fiscal devastation to counties who are unable to currently balance their budgets. Dallas County makes $1.3 million in revenue from issuing marriage licenses.
In 2016, the bill would cost the Texas government approximately $1.5 million, in labor and technology expenses. Representative Charlie Geren (R-River Oaks) says that the estimation does not include the loss of revenue to county clerks. The secretary of state could delegate the issuing of marriage licenses to county clerks, as long as they are not issued to gay couples.
However, the bill could cause more devastation than what is being considered. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule either for or against same-sex marriages. It would cost Texas millions to fight to defend their right to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. President of Texas Values, Jonathan Saenz, says that this will depend on which way the Supreme Court rules concerning the four marriage cases that will be heard next month. Saenz says that whatever the Supreme Court rules will have value. Until there is a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, there will not be a decision on how Texas will react.
Saenz believes the bill is necessary because officials are mocking the ban as it stands now. There was the marriage of a lesbian couple granted in Travis County last month and Houston Mayor, Annise Parker, made the decision to give benefits to same-sex spouses of employees, directly ignoring the Texas ban. However, 76 percent of the voters in Texas approve the marriage amendment, but those who oppose the bill took notice of the turnout in the November 2005 special election was only 17 percent. The polls were also referenced and they reveal that there are more Texans who support same-sex marriage than oppose it, currently.
The legal and policy director at the ACLU of Texas, Rebecca Robertson, said the 14th Amendment is in place to protect the minorities against the will of the majority, and it is the duty of the courts to interpret its guarantee of equal protection. Texas cannot exempt itself from constitutional law.
Republican Patrick, believes traditional marriage is worth the fight to preserve. He thanked those in attendance at the Capitol for supporting traditional marriage in Texas. Republican Paxton, said the issue has been well-defined and could not be made clearer. He will continue to fight the federal government’s attempt to refuse to acknowledge the right of Texans to define marriage. Paxton succeeded in getting the Texas Supreme Court to prevent gay marriage after a lesbian couple in Austin was given a court order for a marriage license in February. The idea was provoked by a probate court’s ruling that the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional.
Paxton sued the U.S. Department of Labor, last week, concerning a proposal that would extend family leave benefits to married same-sex couples. Moore requested for Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse themselves from the debates on marriage of the same-sex because both of them previously have made gay weddings official. There is currently a petition circulating requesting the recusal of the two judges.
Reverend Bill Owens, president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, said that what upsets him the most is that the LGBT community is using the civil rights movement to justify their request for specific rights. In Owens’ opinion, the LGBT community has “hijacked the civil rights movement.”
The chair of the Equality Texas Foundation’s board of directors, Steve Rudner, said the two movements are actually not the same. He also said that everyone deserves the same rights. Rudner and Lisa, his wife, stood with approximately 50 people who met at a church near the capitol and had lunch together. Then they held an ice cream social before lobbying for the support of gay marriage. Rudner and his wife have 16-year-old twin sons, one of which is gay.
The bill that has been left pending in the committee, has 24 co-sponsors. Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) has introduced an identical bill. Texas refuses to follow constitutional law and allow same-sex marriage, regardless of what the federal government has ruled.
By Jeanette Smith
Photo courtesy of D&K – Flickr License
Photo courtesy of Adam McGee – Flickr License