At first, the 84th Texas Legislature, which wrapped at the beginning of the month, looked like it was going to be a banner year for lawmakers who oppose LGBT rights. The die hard anti-gay wing of the Texas Republican party managed to file at least 20 anti-LGBT proposals at the start of the session. One would have given business owners a license to discriminate against LGBT customers, while another banned taxpayer-funded employees from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. One bill would have shielded child welfare agencies from lawsuit for refusing to allow same-sex couples to adopt.
At the end of the day, anti-LGBT Republicans got nothing more than a hastily-drafted resolution reminding us they’re very serious about the whole “1 man + 1 woman = marriage” thing. That and a pointless bill called the “Pastor Protection Act,” for which Gov. Greg Abbott’s hosting a signing ceremony this morning.
As we wrote back when the bill was making its trip through the Lege, the act claims to fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place. Backers called it a shield for pastors who have been harassed or intimidated because they would not perform ceremonies for LGBT couples. (The five Houston-area pastors subpoenaed by the City of Houston during the protracted legal battle to overturn the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance were, for some reason, touted as emblematic of this struggle, despite the fact that those pastors were subpoenaed because of their organizing efforts to overturn a city ordinance, not because they wouldn’t marry same-sex couples.)
The act simply reiterates protections for clergy and religious leaders to choose whom they marry that already exist on the federal and state levels. As we wrote back when the bill was passed, the bill has no practical purpose whatsoever – aside from Texas’s anti-LGBT lawmakers having the opportunity to give a big, united middle finger to an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision that many expect will affirm the right of same-sex couples across the country to marry.
An exchange between state Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin), a lesbian, and bill supporters when the measure passed the House perhaps best illustrates how pointless the “Pastor Protection Act” really is.
“Let me reassure some pastors here, some fine day my partner and I will be able to get married in the great state of Texas,” she said. But when that day comes, instead of seeking out pastors who condemn their relationship, Israel said, “[we] will be going to someone who loves and respects who we are and the way we have taken care of each other.”