As a wave of Tea Party members will soon be sworn to govern the Texas Legislature — with Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick leading the pack of misfits — this upcoming 84th Legislative Session is expected to be one of the cruelest for Texan minorities, including the LGBT community.
Yet, Texas Democrats are wasting no time after the election to go on the offense — filing various kinds of progressive legislation on Monday, among them several bills meant to repeal the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
On Monday, Texas house Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) and Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) teamed up to file legislation to remove the statutory and constitutional provisions in the Texas Constitution that make marriage equality illegal all over the state. Over in the Senate, Texas state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) will be filing the companion legislation needed.
Anchia and Hinojosa spoke of the importance of recognizing the freedom and equality instilled in all Texans, no matter if straight or LGBT:
“Marriage says ‘we are a family’ in a way that no other word does,” said Rep. Anchia in a press release. “Marriage strengthens families and gives couples the tools and security they need to build a life together.”
“All Texas couples should be allowed the freedom to marry, build a family, care for those they love, and be treated with dignity and respect,” he said. “ We are all equals — each of us only wanting to take care of our families and our children. We cannot deny someone that right.”
The latest poll conducted by Equality Texas shows a plurality of Texans are ready for marriage equality.
According the results of a 2013 poll conducted by Equality Texas, “By a margin of 47.9% to 47.5%, a very minor plurality, Texas voters now support the freedom to marry.” In addition, “64.7% of all Texas voters support allowing gay and lesbian couples to get a civil union.” Numbers in support of marriage equality in Texas are expected to continue to grow, as they have over the past decade following the state’s ban on gay marriage.
In fact, support for LGBT rights as a whole have seen a tremendous increase throughout the years. The vast majority of Texans support rights such as partnership benefits, medical decisions, hospital visitations, and employment and hate crime protections.
Coleman doesn’t believe we reached this point by accident:
“The LGBTQ community and allies have already won the battle of public opinion – the majority of Americans now support marriage equality, including the vast majority of young Republicans. When the Supreme Court decides this issue, they will do so in an environment that is ready for marriage equality. We didn’t get here by accident; we got here by persistently fighting for what was right, even when it was not always popular,” said Rep. Coleman in a press release.
History repeats as Texas is currently in a court battle over it’s discriminatory marriage laws.
Earlier this year, a federal court in San Antonio ruled the state’s ban on marriage equality as unconstitutional. “Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution,” said U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in his order.
Governor-elect Greg Abbott is battling the decision, arguing “The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman. If the 5th [U.S.] Circuit [Court of Appeals] honors those precedents, then today’s decision should be overturned and the Texas Constitution will be upheld.”
We’ll have to see about that. The next hearing for the cases is set for January 5, 2015. Ultimately, it might be up to the U.S. Supreme Court to rule Texas’ gay marriage ban as unconstitutional. This wouldn’t be the first time the Supreme Court will have to step in to strike down Texas’ discriminatory marriage laws, as the Court previously struck down Texas’ ban on interracial marriage in 1967, along with all other states’ bans.
Rodriguez believes it is time we start to treat everyone equally:
“Texas is now only one of 18 states that deny legalized same sex marriage to its residents,” said Senator Rodríguez. “This not only shows the rest of the country that we remain mired in our history of inequality, it sends the message that our leadership would rather listen to the voice of intolerance than provide many of its residents the dignity and respect that they deserve. The time to change that is now.”
Rep. Anchia further argued we need to be proactive in assuring the families of LGBT Texans are treated with the dignity they deserve. “I am practical about the chances of this legislation passing,” Anchia said. “But we still want to be on the offensive. We are not going to sit back and do nothing.”
Follow Omar on Twitter at @AraizaTX.