LGBT ally Rep. Rafael Anchia will file bills to repeal the Texas ban on marriage equality Monday
Even as Texas’ LGBT community is still reeling from the disappointment of the 2014 midterm elections, a group of LGBT allies in the Texas Legislature announced this week that they are “going on the offensive” against the Lone Star State’s ban on marriage equality.
State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, are joining with colleagues in the Texas Senate on Monday, Nov. 10, to pre-file legislation providing for both a statutory repeal and a constitutional repeal of Texas’ constitutional amendment prohibiting legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Monday is the first day that Texas lawmakers can begin filing legislation for the 84th Legislature, which convenes Jan. 13.
Anchia said he and Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, will introduce the statutory repeal bills on Monday, while Coleman and Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, will introduce legislation to repeal the constitutional amendment prohibiting legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
“I am practical about the chances of this legislation passing” especially after midterm elections, Anchia said.
“But we still want to be on the offensive. We are not going to sit back and do nothing.”
Liz Zornes, Anchia’s chief of staff, explained that Texas currently has both statutory and constitutional provisions prohibiting same-sex marriage.
Lawmakers in 1997 passed a bill prohibiting the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and in 2003 they approved a measure to void any same-sex marriage or civil union performed in any jurisdiction.
Most recently, Texas voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution to ban legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Zornes said Anchia’s bill would “expand the definition of marriage to encompass a marriage between two men and/or two women. Further, the bill would repeal statutory restrictions against the recognition of a civil union or similar relationship entered into in another state between two persons of the same sex.”
Zornes said Anchia’s bill in the House, and Hinojosa’s companion bill in the Senate, would be “enabling legislation for a joint resolution” to repeal the anti-marriage-equality constitutional amendment. She said Anchia’s bill would “have no effect” unless voters repeal the amendment, or unless the court system strikes down the ban.
Even though the repeal is not likely to get far in the Texas House, Anchia said putting it out there could have a positive effect in the long-term.
“It’s about raising consciousness in the body” of the Legislature, he said. “We are in a very different place nationwide than we were in [in 2005 when the amendment was approved by voters]. And challenging legislators on their beliefs means that they will think about the issue.”
With Republicans almost winning a super-majority in the Texas Senate, picking up three seats in the state House and sweeping the statewide offices, the outlook for Lone Star LGBTs “on the legislative and executive sides certainly seem daunting,” Anchia said. But at the same time, he added, “10 years ago when we started fighting this issue [of same-sex marriage], we certainly didn’t think we’d be where we are today nationally in just 10 years.
“Yes, it will be difficult. But if we sit on our hands, we won’t make any progress at all. You don’t get unless you ask. We plan to ask,” he said.
And Anchia won’t just be asking on the issue of same-sex marriage. He also plans to introduce — for the fourth consecutive session — legislation that would allow same-sex couples that adopt to put both their names on their children’s birth certificates.
Zornes explained via email, “Currently when a child is adopted by two individuals of the same gender in the state of Texas, one adoptive parent must choose to be designated on the birth certificate in accordance with the statutory requirement of only one male father and one female mother. The other adoptive parent is not listed.
“A child’s birth certificate is used for a variety of identification purposes, both for the child and the parent[s],” she continued.
“School registration, health insurance and passport applications and government benefits, among others, each require a child’s birth certificate. The state of Texas recognizes that adoptive parents may be aunts, uncles, grandparents or other parties who may not be a part of an opposite-gender couple. [Anchia’s] bill will ensure that the names of a child’s legal parents appear on the supplemental birth certificate, regardless of the parents’ gender.”
State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, will introduce a companion bill in her chamber of the Legislature, said Tricia Horatio, Anchia’s general counsel and legislative director.
Horatio said that both LGBT-related bills are part of Anchia’s “rather broad legislative package” for 2015 that will focus primarily on issues related to civil liberties, energy and election reform.
The adoption bill, however, won’t be introduced Monday along with the marriage-related bills, she said.
Horatio said that Anchia, Coleman, Hinojosa and Rodriguez had agreed to make sure that the focus Monday is solely on efforts to repeal the marriage equality ban.
“Then in a couple of weeks, we will follow up with the adoption bill,” she said.
Again, Anchia acknowledged that the likelihood of either bill seeing daylight in 2015 is slim. But again, he stressed that the mere act of introducing the LGBT-positive measures can help push the civil rights movement ahead.
“Like I said before, think of where we were 10 years ago. Yes, [most Republicans in Texas government] have made their positions on this very clear. But we have to continue to fight, to raise their consciousness on these issues,” Anchia said.
“But that’s here in Texas. When you look, you’ll see that nationally, we are right on the verge of reaching that tipping point.
People are changing their minds and changing their positions” on LGBT civil rights issues.
Anchia concluded, “We just have to keep on moving forward. Whether this new group [of Texas Republican officeholders] change their minds or not, we keep moving forward. Either they change their minds or we just switch them out with someone new and better in four years.
“Every journey starts with small steps,” he said. “We are making those small steps. And we make strides forward every time we engage another person in dialogue on the issues.
“We just have to focus on the positives and keep moving forward. Eventually, the arc of justice will bend in our direction.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 7, 2014.