Aiming to bolster sovereignty, Texas House will vote on gay marriage bill

by Gregory Tomlin, |

AUSTIN, Texas (Christian Examiner) – Texas legislators will vote next Tuesday on a bill that will prohibit state funds from being used to license or support same-sex marriages.

House Bill 4105, or the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act, also provides that state and local governments cannot "recognize, grant, or enforce a same-sex marriage license," a provision aimed at negating claims of reciprocity from same-sex couples married in other states.

Rep. Cecil Bell [R-Magnolia], who introduced the bill, said during the House Conference Committee in April that the bill will "make certain our dollars are used the way we as Texans want them used," the Austin American Statesman reported. The bill has 78 Republican co-authors.

But money is not the primary concern of the legislation. The state's official analysis of the bill cites its purpose as "affirming that the definition and regulation of marriage is within the sole authority and realm of the separate states." Texas is one of 13 states still upholding traditional marriage as the sole form of marriage in the state.

The Supreme Court took up the issue of gay marriage in April and will issue its ruling in June, likely on the last day the high court is in session. Justices are considering whether the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause opens the door to same-sex marriage and, if so, if the same amendment be used to mandate a state to recognize a same-sex marriage licensed in another state.

HB 4105 attempts to answer both of those questions "no," and that marriage is a power not enumerated for the federal government in the Constitution.

Nearly 20 bills aiming to protect Texas from same-sex marriage have been filed this legislative session, but Texas legislators learned from the disruption a religious freedom bill caused in Indiana earlier this year. That bill, which granted protections to people of faith who could not recognize a same-sex marriage, was attacked by gay rights opponents for "ensconcing discrimination." Indiana legislations amended the bill to read that the bill did not grant the right for businesses to deny services to homosexuals.

In Texas, bills proposed to offer protections to business owners who refuse services to same-sex couples based on religious conscience have not advanced into consideration by the full House or Senate.

But a bill waiting in the wings of the Texas Senate chambers will, if passed, offer protections to religious organizations and individuals who refuse to perform, solemnize or celebrate a marriage in violation of "sincerely held religious belief."

SB 2065, sponsored by Sen. Craig Estes [R-Wichita Falls] and nine other state senators, provides protections for religious organizations, individuals associated with religious organization, or employees of religious organizations who refuse to "solemnize any marriage, provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges" for any marital arrangement that violates religious conscience. Same-sex marriage is not mentioned in the bill.

The bill also includes provisions that the refusal of services on religious grounds is "not a basis for a civil or criminal cause of action or any other action."