Cecil Bell’s ‘witch’ is dead — but it and other anti-LGBT bills could be resurrected

Posted on 15 May 2015 at 12:41pm

Don’t hoist your rainbow flag just yet.

Ding dong, the witch — aka Rep. Cecil Bell’s HB 4105 — is dead.

Despite having the support of nearly all House Republicans, the bill that would have barred county officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples failed to secure a vote on the House floor before midnight.

Legislators had been working nonstop since Tuesday to kill the bill by “chubbing” it, a common tactic used by both parties to slow down the calendar. Chubbing means anything from proposing amendments to calling parliamentary points of order on a bill.

Technically speaking, HB 4105 died at 11 p.m. Per House rules, a calendar item may not move absent a unanimous vote. Absent the Rapture taking away the bill’s opponents, that wasn’t going to happen.

HB 4105 also faced another obstacle in the Legislature: it had no Senate companion and it would be difficult, though not impossible, to add it as an amendment to another bill. (To successfully tack an amendment to another bill, it must directly relate to the bill’s intent.) Bell, a Magnolia Republican and the bill’s author, told reporters the bill may be dead but he is mulling reviving it in some form as an amendment.

“No bill is dead. You just have to find something that’s germane…We will continue to look for places that it fits [and] work to get this effort…done,” he said.

While HB 4105’s defeat was seen as a victory, it also came at a price.

HB 71 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, was a bill supported by the LGBT community that earned bipartisan support since its first committee hearing. The “Romeo and Juliet” bill amends the penal code to protect same-gender couples within three years of each other in age from being punished for their relationships.

But overall, the news was good. Despite the record number of bills explicitly targeting the LGBT community filed this session, most died in committee, or were even dead on arrival. Among them were four bills targeting the trans community that would have allowed businesses and child welfare organizations to discriminate on religious grounds and bills stripping local entities’ nondiscrimination ordinances and pro-LGBT policies.

Also dead are a handful of bills that would in essence criminalize HIV.

Bills, as Bell noted, can change into amendments without much effort. That’s what other lawmakers, including Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, are considering. But with the clock ticking to a June 1 conclusion, one would hope that lawmakers do what they’re really in Austin for: pass a budget.

While advocates like Equality Texas’ Daniel Williams told the Voice organizations like his would be on the defense and their work is still not over, LGBT rights advocates and supporters still achieved victory this morning when these bills died.

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