A high-profile anti-gay marriage bill has been revived in the Texas Legislature.
GOP Rep. Cecil Bell's House Bill 4105, designed to undermine a potential ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of same-sex marriage, died two weeks ago when it failed to come up for consideration in the Texas House before the deadline.
However, the provisions of Bell's bill have now been added to other legislation.
From The Quorum Report:
After a bill that would have barred state and local governments from using public funds to issue same-sex marriage licenses died in the Texas House, very similar language was rolled out in a Senate committee Monday. But, the language was slipped into a benign sounding bill and so far has caught the attention of very few people.
Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, laid out the omnibus county bill by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, in Senate Intergovernmental Relations. In Lucio’s committee substitute for House Bill 2977, the same anti-gay marriage language pushed unsuccessfully by Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, was inserted. Bell’s bill died because it wasn’t debated on the House floor prior to a key deadline.
It was not immediately clear whether Lucio, a socially conservative Democrat, initiated the amendment. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Given that HB 2977 was amended by the Senate, it would have to go back to the House for final approval. But Equality Texas legislative specialist Daniel Williams told Towleroad he believes that's unlikely given that the author, Coleman, is a staunch LGBT ally.
"Garnet Coleman will kill this bill before he lets it go through with that amendment on it," Williams said, noting it was added to Coleman's legislation because it's one of the few remaining bills on a similar topic.
"They're desperate," Williams said. "This is a desperate move."
UPDATE: The Senate committee reconvened at the request of other Democrats on Tuesday, before voting 4-2 to advance the bill with the anti-gay marriage amendment. Democratic Sens. Sylvia Garcia and Jose Menendez voted against it, and said they didn't realize before Monday's initial vote that that anti-gay marriage amendment had been added. Sen. Lucio apparently tried to sneak in the amendment. The bill is now slated for a floor debate Wednesday, but Lucio acknowledged its chances of getting back through the House before the session ends Monday are slim.
Below is a release about the amendment from pro-LGBT groups:
ANTI-LGBT MARRIAGE BILL REVIVED IN TEXAS SENATE
Senate Committee Sneaks Zombie Bill onto Omnibus County Bill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 26, 2015
Just two weeks after it died in the Texas House, a measure designed to subvert a potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage has been suddenly revived in the Texas Senate.
Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, added to an omnibus bill on county government — HB 2977 by state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston — core language from state Rep. Cecil Bell’s failed HB 4105. HB 4105 would have barred state and local officials from licensing, enforcing or recognizing a same-sex marriage even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. HB 4105 died in the House two weeks ago.
The committee first approved the revised HB 2977 Monday night. The committee took a second vote today after some committee members objected that Sen. Lucio hadn’t told them that the marriage language had been added to the bill. Sen. Lucio, a Democrat, voted with three Republicans to approve the revised bill. Two Democrats, Sen. Sylvia Garcia of Houston and Sen. José Menéndez of San Antonio, voted against.
A coalition of civil liberties and LGBT-rights organizations — American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Equality Texas, Texas Freedom Network and the Human Rights Campaign — issued the following statements about the revised bill:
Kathy Miller, President, Texas Freedom Network:
“This reckless move tosses aside the state’s responsibilities under the U.S. Constitution and callously betrays loving gay and lesbian couples who simply want to make a lifetime commitment and protect their families the same way everyone else does. Every senator, regardless of party, should reject this amended bill and save Texas from the same firestorm of criticism that swept through Indiana and other states that have passed legislation promoting discrimination against LGBT people and their families.”
Terri Burke, Executive Director, ACLU of Texas:
“Sen. Lucio’s attempt to stain Texas’ reputation with this retrograde legislation demonstrates that he’s on the wrong side of history and not in line with Texas values. In the long run, we are confident that the Supreme Court will grant loving LGBT couples the freedom to marry in Texas. And we call upon the Senate to defeat this attempt to enshrine discrimination in our state.”
Chuck Smith, Executive Director, Equality Texas:
“At its core, the amendment added to HB 2977 by Sen. Lucio is an attempt to subvert any future ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the freedom to marry. Pursuing a strategy to defy the Supreme Court will cost Texas taxpayers millions in litigation and cause great damage to our economy and reputation. In its present form, HB2977 must be defeated.”
Marty Rouse, National Field Director, Human Rights Campaign:
“This amendment sends an extreme message about the future of the Lone Star State – a future where all Texans are not welcome to live and thrive. Texas Senators must do everything in their power to stop this destructive and divisive assault on LGBT Texans and their families before it inflicts needless damage on this great state.”