Reposted from Chrislove by Chrislove
It's likely going to be a bad 84th legislative session for all Texans with Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick taking the helm, but it's shaping up to be a particularly defensive one for the LGBT community. Two "license-to-discriminate" amendments have been filed seeking to gut local LGBT non-discrimination ordinances that have been passed in cities such as San Antonio, Houston, and Plano. And now we can add a batshit bill introduced by State Rep. Cecil Bell, Jr. (R-Magnolia) to the mix: House Bill 623, or the "Texas Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act," which seeks to amend the Texas Family Code to prevent same-sex marriages from taking place in the extremely likely event the state's marriage ban is struck down.
Of course, the ban has already been struck down, but the ruling was stayed pending appeal. Which Greg Abbott couldn't file fast enough. Tomorrow, the Fifth Circuit is hearing oral arguments in the marriage equality cases from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and despite the conservative reputation the court has earned, there just may be a swing vote that will deliver an unexpected pro-equality ruling. If that doesn't happen, the Supreme Court is likely to eventually hear a case and is widely expected to strike down marriage bans nationwide. Whether it's sooner or later, marriage equality is coming to Texas. Even right-wingers like Bell are starting to get that. But they'll be damned if they don't go down swinging.
Just how crazy is HB 623? From the Texas Observer:
HB 623 would amend the Texas Family Code to prohibit the use of taxpayer funds for the “the licensing or support of same-sex marriage.” It would also bar government employees from recognizing, granting or enforcing same-sex marriage licenses. Any government employee who violates the provision would be barred from collecting “a salary, pension, or other employee benefit.”
HB 623 would also require Texas courts to dismiss challenges to the law and award attorneys’ fees to defendants. And it would grant Texas sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when it comes to enforcing the law, “regardless of a contrary federal court ruling.”
In other words, Bell's idea is to proclaim that the state of Texas does not have to--and will not--comply with impending federal court rulings legalizing marriage between same-sex couples. And if a clerk actually, um, follows the law (the real
law, not this nonsense)? They lose their paycheck. That
crazy. From Bell's press release:
When I was elected, I made a promise to my constituents to fight to protect our traditional values and to stand strong in the defense of our constitutional rights as Texans and Americans. Texas is a sovereign state and our citizens have the right to define marriage. We as Texans voted in 2005 to define marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. In Texas marriage is sacred and traditional families are recognized as the fabric of our society.
Daniel Williams, legislative specialist for Equality Texas
, responds to HB 623 in the Texas Tribune
This bill is retreading very well-established precedent here. In 1869, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Texas v. White that no, Texas may not ignore federal law whenever it wants. Beyond ignoring federal law, it would actually punish state employees who follow the law.
As for its chances of actually passing? Williams again:
It’s certainly far outside the mainstream, but it’s something we’ll be watching very carefully. The Legislature can always pass unconstitutional laws, and then it’s litigated in the courts. I’m guessing Cecil Bell wants to make sure Ken Paxton has plenty of work to do in his new job as attorney general.
Equality Texas has put out an action alert
on HB 623.
As for Bell, it won't surprise you to know that he was one of the 63 Texas legislators who signed a court brief to the Fifth Circuit linking marriage equality to incest and pedophilia. Because of course.
Meanwhile, also from the Tribune:
Other lawmakers have filed bills to recognize same-sex marriage in Texas, allow same-sex parents to put both of their names on their child’s birth certificate and prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
My guess is that Bell's bill has a much better chance of passing than any of those do. It's going to be a long legislative session.