Lawmakers Let Anti-LGBT Bills Die, But Not Without a Resolution

In a move that somewhat mirrored the Texas House earlier this month, state senators swapped the last of their anti-LGBT bills for a hastily written resolution reaffirming the old “1 man + 1 woman = marriage” saw. (Seriously, the text of the resolution was so new it was not  even available at press time *The text of that  weak sauce sanctimonious resolution has finally surfaced.)

Yesterday, state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., a Rio Grande Valley “DINO” in terms of social values, revived what we called a “super ban” on gay marriage that had previously died on the House floor. On Monday, using shell bill HB 2977 (a non-controversial “shell” designed to encompass language of other bills that don’t stand a chance of getting heard), Lucio tacked on legislation originally written by state Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) that would have prohibited any state spending or resources going toward marriage licenses and other legal recognition of marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Since gay marriage is banned in Texas, this legislation was presumably a hedge against the U.S. Supreme Court overturning such state bans in the near future. Lucio’s language passed out of the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee, much to the chagrin of HB 2977’s original, liberal, author, Houston Democrat Garnet Coleman, who threatened to kill the bill altogether.

Turns out he didn’t have to. Lucio took the bullet for that on the Senate floor, withdrawing the bill in a bizarre speech clarifying his stance against both gay marriage and abortion. (If there was a test in which you could tell if a baby was gay before it was born, Lucio wants you to know he wouldn’t abort a gay fetus. Guess that means Lucio doesn’t think being gay is a lifestyle choice, so, yay?) He, along with the rest of the body, rightfully worried about lengthy debate the bill and Lucio’s amendment would engender late into the night before the Senate’s midnight deadline to hear bills.

Instead, discussion turned to a resolution offered by state Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), supported by all 20 GOP Senators, that sounded very much like the letter House Republicans released after their attempts at anti-LGBT legislation all but expired. It was during this debate that Lucio announced his withdrawing the bill, leaning heavily on his Catholic faith as explanation for his views.

Perhaps inspired by Lucio, fellow South Texas Democrat Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen) spoke against the resolution. Countering the assertions of resolution supporters that they respected everyone (though not, by name, LGBT citizens), Hinojosa said, “What I see is discrimination of people who are different than us.” A frequent sponsor of pro-LGBT legislation, Hinojosa then reminded his colleagues that his daughter is gay and “for her to have to go out of this state to get married is not right and not fair.”

Perhaps feeling a little outclassed, Hancock retorted, “this is a resolution about marriage, the words were chosen carefully to promote from our voters and from what’s in our constitution the definition of marriage… There is no hate within my heart as I defend [this]. I find it offensive that I’m standing up for my convictions and I get accused of hate.” Hancock concluded, “Don’t discriminate against us, who may not share those same convictions.”

While Republicans framed their support of hetero-only marriage as a matter of supporting the will of their constituents and Texans in general, Democrats speaking against the resolution pointed out that public opinion was quickly shifting on the issue. And while Republicans frequently recalled that Texas’ ban on gay marriage passed with 76 percent of the vote, Democrats countered that was in 2005, a full decade ago. A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll from October 2014 shows 47 percent of respondents opposing gay marriage, with 42 percent supporting and 11 percent undecided. A Pew Research poll from 2014 looking at gay marriage opinions since 2001 showed that while 53 percent opposed and 36 percent supported gay marriage nationally in 2005, by 2015 those numbers had nearly flipped.

While LGBT rights groups certainly did not appreciate the spirit of the resolution, they once again did a quiet little happy dance, as they did when similar bills failed to pass out of the House. Texas Freedom Network tweeted shortly after the resolution passed 21-10 that “Having no force of law and with anti-LGBT bills dead for the session, this was just a petty swipe at LGBT Texans.” Earlier this week, the only other bill with anti-LGBT implications left standing, an amendment that would have allowed child welfare organizations to make service decisions based on religious beliefs—like not accepting LGBT foster and adoptive parents—was pulled by its author.

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Callie Enlow