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Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Finally Dies In Texas, Joins More Than 20 Other Anti-LGBT Proposals

Cake

An anti-gay marriage amendment died Wednesday night in the Texas Senate, joining more than 20 other pieces of anti-LGBT legislation that failed to pass this year. 

Recognizing they wouldn't have time to take up the amendment, Republican senators hastily introduced a non-binding resolution in opposition to same-sex marriage. The resolution is along the lines of a letter issued by the House Republican Caucus earlier this month.  

The Texas Tribune reports:

The body's 20 Republican senators and state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, voted for Senate Resolution 1028, authored by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, that affirmed "the present definition" of marriage in the state. 

“This resolution is intended by those of us who signed it to demonstrate that we continue to support what the people of this state have expressed," state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said.

State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa was among several Democrats who criticized the amendment. Hinojosa suggested Republicans were discriminating against gay people, including his own daughter.

During debate on the resolution, Lucio announced he'd withdraw the bill containing an amendment designed to undermine a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. From the Associated Press

The Senate deadline for passing bills was midnight Wednesday. But with less than four hours to go - likely enough time for Democrats to run out the clock if the bill came up - the proposal was dropped. Republicans instead only passed a resolution that reaffirmed their belief of marriage being between a man and a woman.

"Good legislation was sacrificed, but appropriately so to see this language fail," said Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman, whose unrelated bill was used by the Senate to carry the marriage-license amendment. "It is offensive to my constituents, it's offensive to me, and it's offensive to our constitution."

The Texas legislative session, which saw the most anti-LGBT proposals in the history of any state, doesn't officially end until Monday. But with the death of the anti-gay marriage amendment, the LGBT community appeared to be out of the woods:    

Senator Lucio pulls down #HB2977 that contained the "deny the Supreme Court" language. With that, hopefully the last of...

Posted by Equality Texas on Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Alabama House Committee Rejects LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill

An Alabama House committee today rejected a bill that would have extended state-wide non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation or identity. 

The Montgomery Advertiser reports:

FlagThe legislation, sponsored by Rep. Christopher England, D-Tuscaloosa, would have added the classes to state protections against discrimination in employment, housing, accommodations, financial transactions and voting.

“I believe in order to protect those classifications, they need to be enumerated,” England told the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon. “There is some case history that if it’s not enumerated, it’s not protected.”

The committee voted to carry it over, killing it for the remainder of the session. Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, who moved to have it carried over, said he “did not want anyone discriminated against,” but said that he had concerns about how the legislation would interact with existing statutes in Alabama.

Republican legislators in the state senate have also introduced bills that could provide protections to LGBT individuals, though out state Rep. Patricia Todd has criticized them for being too vague:

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston and Rep. Mike Ball, R-Huntsville, have both introduced pieces of legislation that would ban discrimination against LGBT state workers. Ball’s bill – which bans discrimination based on a “trait or characteristic, immutable or otherwise” unrelated to work performance – was approved by the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Unlike those bills, England’s legislation would have covered the private sector as well.

All the bills were introduced late in the session and face long odds of passage. Todd said she “appreciated the sentiment” of Ball’s bill, but said it would be problematic.

“It is so broad I can imagine courts having no way to rule whether anything was discrimination or not,” she said. “What if you don’t shower often and you come to work? You can’t be fired for that?


Texas Senate To Debate Anti-Gay Marriage Proposal After Bigoted Adoption Measure Stalls

Cake

A Texas Republican lawmaker says he dropped an anti-LGBT adoption measure Tuesday because he wanted the House to have time to consider an anti-abortion proposal before a midnight deadline. 

As we told you Tuesday, GOP Rep. Scott Sanford had introduced an amendment that would give state-funded, faith-based child welfare providers a license to discriminate against LGBT people. But Sanford ultimately withdrew the amendment. The Dallas Morning News reports: 

SanfordRep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney (right), has said the measure is needed but he pulled down his amendment to allow the House more time to get to a bill prohibiting insurance coverage of abortions in policies sold in the federally run Texas health insurance marketplace.

“The pro-life bills are really important to us,” he said. “In order to get to them, we need to pull down our amendment.”

Incidentally, the House didn't get to the anti-abortion bill, either. 

After Sanford dropped his amendment, GOP Sen. Donna Campbell tried to revive it in that chamber, but her effort also failed. From The Texas Tribune:  

CampbellState Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels (right), sought to add the amendment to a House bill sponsored by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, that would direct the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to study “kinship care” programs.

But Campbell quickly pulled the proposal down after state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, sought to kill the provision on a technicality. The Senate unanimously passed the bill, HB 2655, once the amendments were withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the Senate is set to consider an anti-gay marriage amendment Wednesday. As we reported Tuesday, the amendment is an effort to revive Rep. Cecil Bell's House Bill 4105, which aimed to undermine a potential Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality. The amendment was added to another bill by a socially conservative Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio (below right), in the dark of night. However, even if it passes the Senate, the amendment doesn't appear to have much chance of making it back through the House before the session ends Monday. The House author of the bill is Democratic Rep. Garnet Coleman, a staunch LGBT ally.  

6a00d8341c730253ef01b8d11aa95e970c-800wiFrom The Houston Chronicle

If the bill passes in the GOP-dominated Senate, which Coleman expects it to, it would need to return to the House, where the lower chamber's members would have to concur with the changes. Coleman said if he can't strip the anti-gay marriage off his legislation, then he would withdraw it completely.

"If I can't get it off, then the bill goes to bill heaven," Coleman said. "I don't support that legislation or that language." ... 

Lucio, a strong Catholic and social conservative, said Bell asked him to attach the language to the bill. Wednesday is the last day for the Senate to consider local and consent bills.

Equality Texas is urging people to call senators and ask them to vote against Lucio's amendment. 

The Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. You can watch the proceedings live here


Texas House To Consider Horrific Anti-LGBT Adoption Amendment

Sanford

The Texas House of Representatives is expected to consider a proposal Tuesday that would give state-funded, faith-based child welfare agencies a license to discriminate against LGBT people. 

GOP Rep. Scott Sanford (shown above with Sen. Ted Cruz) says his amendment is designed to protect adoption agencies like Catholic Charities, which has chosen to shut down rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws requiring them to serve same-sex couples in other states. 

Sanford's so-called "religious freedom" measure began as a bill, but died before a House deadline two weeks ago. Then, he introduced it as an amendment last week, but Democrats used a procedural tactic to block its consideration. Now, it's back for a third time as an amendment to Senate Bill 206, which is on Tuesday's House calendar. 

Of course, it's already legal for adoption agencies to turn away gay couples in Texas, which has no statewide LGBT protections. Major national child welfare groups have come out against Sanford's proposal, which would also run counter to proposed federal legislation, the "Every Child Deserves A Family Act." 

Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the pro-LGBT Texas Freedom Network, said of Sanford's amendment in an email:  

"Rep. Sanford's divisive and disgraceful political agenda has held hostage important legislation reauthorizing a state agency that helps abused and neglected children. He has repeatedly threatened to attach an amendment that would promote discrimination against LGBT families in matters involving foster care, adoption and child welfare placement services. Texas doesn't have enough foster homes, so why turn away qualified and loving families? And Sanford’s amendment is so broad that it would authorize child welfare agencies to discriminate against any family that doesn’t meet the organization’s religious or moral criteria — like interfaith couples or people who belong to a religion that’s different than a particular agency’s. It’s callous and shameful to put politics and discrimination ahead of the interests of vulnerable children."

More from Equality Texas, which is calling on people to contact House members and ask them to oppose the amendment:  

"If enacted into law, the Sanford Amendment would allow child welfare providers to discriminate against not just gay and transgender families, but also against people of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom a provider objects for religious reasons.

"The only consideration of a child welfare agency should be the best interest of the child – not proselytizing for a single, narrow religious interpretation."

TxValuesNot surprisingly, the anti-LGBT hate group Texas Values is supporting the amendment, and has created an infographic (right) suggesting that it would somehow help a 5-year-old whose parents were killed in a fire find a home:   

"In Texas, a large portion of our welfare providers, foster homes and adoption agencies are faith-based organizations. In other states, overbearing governments have essentially forced some faith-based organizations to close or stop services due to the organizations’ stance on Biblical marriage. This amendment would help ensure this does not happen in Texas."

The Texas House convenes at 10 a.m. Central time and likely will go until midnight because it's the last day for the chamber to consider contested bills from the Senate. With less than a week remaining in the legislative session, only one of the 20-plus anti-LGBT proposals introduced in Texas this year has passed. But Equality Texas ultimately withdrew its opposition to that bill, the so-called Pastor Protection Act, and two openly LGBT state representatives voted for it.  

Watch the House proceedings live here


Gay Marriage News Watch: Alabama, Ireland - VIDEO

Baume

Matt Baume with the American Foundation for Equal Rights reports on an Alabama minister who's receiving jail time for marrying a same-sex couple, Ireland's recent marriage equality victory and Gallup's latest poll showing landmark support for same-sex marriage in the US.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Gay Marriage News Watch: Alabama, Ireland - VIDEO" »


Nine More States Comply With Federal Prison Rape Law, But DOJ Rejects Texas Governor's Letter

Abbott

For a brief instant, it was starting to appear as though a wave of sanity had swept over the Texas GOP. 

First, Rep. Sarah Davis became the first Republican state lawmaker in history to publicly back same-sex marriage.   

Then, it was widely reported that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott had agreed to comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act — unlike his predecessor, Rick Perry. 

Alas, though, it was apparently too good to be true, at least with regard to Abbott. The New York Times reports that the Justice Department has rejected the governor's assurance of compliance with PREA: 

Mr. Abbott, who took office in January, was under some pressure in the week before the deadline, during which an article in The New York Times highlighted the sexual abuse problem in Texas’ prisons, an editorial in The Dallas Morning News urged the governor to “enact the federal reforms now,” and protesters in Austin called on him to take action against prison rape.

“I can assure you that we will fully implement D.O.J.’s PREA standards wherever feasible,” he wrote to the attorney general. ... 

Mr. Abbott did not, however, provide the required written assurance that Texas would spend at least 5 percent of certain federal grants to achieve full compliance with the anti-rape standards.

“The letter we received from Texas makes no such representation and, therefore, it cannot be considered to be an assurance under PREA,” said Dena W. Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department.

All told, nine more states certified compliance with PREA this year, brining the total to 11. Texas was one of six states that had rejected the federal standards outright, foregoing federal funds rather than striving to meet them. Two of those states, Florida and Indiana, have since said they're working to comply with PREA. It was unclear whether whether the other three, Arizona, Idaho and Utah, had done so, The NYT reports. 

According to Just Detention International, which works to eliminate sexual abuse in detention facilities, LGBT inmates are 15 times more likely to be victims of prison rape than non-LGBT inmates. And Texas is home to five of the 10 facilities in the nation with the highest rates of sexual assault. 

Jael Humphrey of Lambda Legal, which is suing Texas on behalf of transgender inmate Passion Star, who's been repeatedly raped in assaulted in the state's prisons, issued this statement: 

“We are profoundly disappointed that Governor Abbott has neglected to make a meaningful commitment to meet the PREA standards set by the DOJ, and we applaud the Justice Department for demanding real commitment from Texas to use grant funds to actually enforce these standards. Governor Abbott cannot coast by paying lip service to PREA, while Passion Star and other incarcerated people remain at risk of continued sexual violence. Lambda Legal will continue to press Governor Abbott to take the necessary steps to end prison rape in his written statements and to turn his words into action.”


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