Jose Rodriguez files Senate version of bill to repeal TX marriage amendment

Jose.Rodriguez

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, filed companion bill SJR 29 today to repeal the state’s marriage amendment that defines marriage between a man and a woman.

State Reps. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, filed a joint resolution Monday calling for a ballot measure in November to repeal the amendment that prohibits the recognition of anything similar of identical to marriage — including civil unions.

Coleman has filed the repeal bill every session since the amendment passed in 2005, but this is the first time a Senate version has been filed.

Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said Friday afternoon he was “elated” that Rodriguez filed the bill. Smith had been working to get another senator to file the companion bill, so having Rodriguez back the effort was a wonderful surprise.

“There continues to be this recognition that public opinion of freedom to marry is mainstream and even in the state of Texas more people will support it than won’t,” Smith said, adding that now there are Senate companion bills for both repealing the marriage amendment and banning ant-LGBT job discrimination. “That’s unprecedented on the Senate side. I think increasingly it’s sending a message that within both chambers there’s support for equality.”

Daniel Cates with GetEQUAL Texas started a Change.org petition calling for the Legislature to recognize the freedom to marry after the House bill was filed, titled “Legislature of the State of Texas: Recognize the Freedom to Marry!” So far, 502 people have signed it.

Equality Texas field organizer Daniel Williams released a legislative update video this afternoon outlining the other progress this week that includes committee assignments of three pro-equality bills.

Watch it below.

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Anti-gay protesters break out Prop 2 signs to fight DP benefits in San Antonio

Last week we posted this story from Sam Sanchez at QSanAntonio about how anti-gay forces are fighting San Antonio’s plan to offer domestic partner benefits to municipal workers. On Monday, a group called “Voices for Marriage” held a press conference outside City Hall to oppose the plan. And as you can see above, they broke out their six-year-old signs from the fight over Prop 2, Texas’ marriage amendment. KENS Channel 5 reports:

Extending benefits to city employees in same sex relationships would cost between $300,000 and $400,000 a year — a small fraction of the total $2.2 billion budget which would go into effect October 1.

The move would also put San Antonio in the same category as many other Texas cities and companies, including USAA and Rackspace that currently offer benefits to domestic partners.

However, a local group calling itself “Voices for Marriage” protested the proposed change on Monday outside city hall. The group, citing religious views and current state law, opposes any extension of benefits to domestic partnerships.

Pastor Gerald Ripley issued a “fact sheet” to those in attendance, listing 14 reasons why the group opposes the change. The document said, “We believe marriage is a legally binding relationship between one man and one woman” and “a vote for domestic partner benefits is a vote against upholding the institution of marriage”.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who backs the change, said the city needs to extend benefits to domestic partners in order to stay competitive with other cities and companies across the country that already offer similar benefits. The mayor dismissed oncerns by many protestors over the cost of benefits as “a smokescreen for their dislike of gays and lesbians.”

Watch video from the press conference below.

—  John Wright

Researcher coming to Dallas to interview gay couples about effects of marriage amendment

America's Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage by Daniel PinelloProfessor Dan Pinello of John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is studying the effects of anti-gay laws on same-sex couples in Super-DOMA states. Those are states such as Texas that have ratified amendments to state constitutions banning recognition of all forms of relationship rights.

Pinello is the author of America’s Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (2006) and Gay Rights and American Law (2003).

He has already conducted more than 100 interviews in Georgia, Michigan and Ohio to determine the grassroots impact of these laws.

He will be in Dallas interviewing lesbian and gay couples in the DFW area for his new book. He’s investigating the grassroots effects of the 2005 Texas Marriage Amendment and wants to meet with a wide variety of same-sex pairs in committed relationships.

Pinello will be in North Texas Jan. 8-16. Interviews will take no more than 60 minutes. For further information, please contact him at dpinello@jjay.cuny.edu.

—  David Taffet

Why haven’t these anti-gay Texas leaders said anything about Wednesday’s Prop 8 ruling?

Wednesday’s ruling in the Prop 8 case represents a potential threat to Gov. Rick Perry’s baby, 2005′s Prop 2. So why hasn’t he said anything to defend it?

Perry v. Schwarzenegger could eventually result in Texas’ same-sex marriage bans being struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. So you’d expect politicians here to be lining up to sound off about Wednesday’s watershed ruling from U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker that declared California’s Prop 8 unconstitutional. Or not.

So far, we’ve seen only two statements from Texas politicians — both in support of the ruling. Linda Chavez-Thompson, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, posted a message on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.

“So glad to hear Prop 8 was overturned today,” Chavez-Thompson wrote. “It was discrimination at its worst. I will keep fighting for equality for all Texans.”

And Democratic State Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston said this via-email:

“I’ve always supported marriage equality for all Americans and believe that the U.S. Constitution supports it as well. When Texas passed its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions in 2005, I filed a constitutional amendment to let voters repeal the discriminatory amendment. I’m glad to see that our country continues to move forward. Every year, the public’s opinion on marriage equality is more supportive. The law should prohibit discrimination, not sanction it.”

Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who championed Texas’ marriage amendment, hasn’t said a word about the Prop 8 ruling other than perhaps to his wife, though he did post a statement on his website Thursday ranting about a spending bill in Congress (since when did Washington become more of a threat than the homosexuals?).

Likewise, we haven’t heard anything from Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who’s fighting to protect Texas from gay divorce; or Republican Ag Commish Todd Staples, who co-authored Texas’ marriage amendment and filed a brief opposing gay divorce; or Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who’s apparently more concerned about drama classes at Tarleton State University.

In fairness, we also haven’t seen statements from the likes of openly gay Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White or any of the other statewide challengers.

In the end, it appears that with a key election a few months away, most would rather simply avoid this issue altogether, which is rather telling if you ask us.

Anyhow, now that we’ve had a chance to sift through our Inboxes, we’ve posted some of the other local reactions we’ve received below.

Cece Cox, executive director, Resource Center Dallas:

“Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling in the Perry vs. Schwarzenegger case — striking down California’s Proposition 8 as a violation of both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment — will be remembered for its pivotal role in our march towards equality.

“In plain and direct language, Judge Walker said that “plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right…many of the purported interests identified by proponents [of Proposition 8] are nothing more than a fear or unarticulated dislike of same-sex couples…moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians.

“But, it’s important to remember that Judge Walker’s ruling is not the last word in this fight. Forty-five states, including Texas, deny marriage to our community. The case now likely moves to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and may end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Much work needs to be done. Until our relationships and families are legally recognized in all states, we are second-class citizens. Continue to have conversations with your families, friends, and co-workers about why marriage equality is important. The tide of public opinion is gradually changing in our favor, and what seemed a dream a generation ago is one major step closer to fruition.”

The Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor, Cathedral of Hope:

“Today [Wednesday], Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker declared the California state law that defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman unconstitutional. I applaud this ruling and believe that Judge Walker has issued a just and fair ruling that pleases God. The journey to full marriage equality for all Americans is still before us. But I have faith that the God who created each of us and called it good is with us in this journey and will see it through. As the world’s largest predominantly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender congregation, we stand with the 18,000 same-sex couples who have already been married in California and with the hundreds that have been married here at the Cathedral of Hope in our 40 years of ministry. We also stand with every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender person who has courageously made covenant with someone they love despite the laws in our nation. This is a day of celebration and joy and we have seen the realm of God come closer to the earth and for that I give God thanks.”

Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman:

“As we stand in solidarity with Californians, we must remember that our work is far from over. The laws in Texas are not similar to California. Existing law here allows for systematic discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Texans every single day. There is much work to be done legislatively to change the laws in Texas. And in order to change the laws, we must elect public officials who will support equal treatment under the law for every Texan.”

—  John Wright