Anti-gay marriage bill dies in Texas House

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Democrats in the Texas House helped score a victory for LGBT Texans late Thursday by chubbing to death an anti-gay marriage bill that looked certain to pass just a few days earlier. 

The state House failed to vote on Rep. Cecil Bell's HB 4105 before midnight on Thursday. That means the death of the measure that would have mandated the state defy a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage.

Democrats dragged their feet all day on Thursday, hoping to run out the legislative clock. Thursday was the last day for legislators to vote bills out of the House. As a possible vote neared this week, opponents rallied their memberships and Texas-based businesses – including Dell, American Airlines, Celanese and Houston-based BP America – to oppose it and lobby lawmakers.

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, celebrated the bill's demise as a rebuke of the antics of anti-gay lawmakers. 

“This was just one bill among many in a broad strategy to lock in discrimination against gay and transgender Texans and subvert a Supreme Court ruling on the freedom to marry,” Miller says in a prepared statement. “Bad actors will continue to push their discrimination legislation, including as amendments to other bills, until the final gavel. So we’re not letting our guard down now.”

Bell's bill was one of more than 20 anti-gay bills filed during the legislative session. On Monday, the state Senate passed the Pastor Protection Act, which reaffirms that clergy can refuse to marry gay couples. State Sen. John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston, blasted the measure as a fix in search of a problem, according to the Texas Tribune.

Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, thanked opponents of Bell's anti-gay marriage bill but, like Miller, warned that the fight might not be over yet.

“Unfortunately for LGBT Texans, there are still 17 days remaining in the legislative session – 17 days during which homophobic and transphobic lawmakers will continue to look for amendment opportunities to inflict discrimination,” Smith says in prepared statement. “We must continue to fight their efforts to defy the Supreme Court and to deny equality to LGBT Texans – through the end of the legislative session and beyond.”

Bell (photo) says that he'll look for other bills to amend with the language from his marriage bill. 

From the Texas Tribune:

“From my perspective, no bill is dead as long as there are other bills in front. You just have to find something that's germane,” Bell said after passage of the House deadline spawned hope among opponents that the measure is done with for this session. “The session still moves on.”

Bell, like Attorney General Ken Paxton, says he isn't swayed by polls showing an increasing number of Texans – especially in Harris County – supporting gay marriage.

From the Texas Tribune:

“If you want a more precise indication of where people are, look at another set of polls — those are the results of our elections in Texas,” Bell said. “It is one thing to say what the polls say. It’s another thing to look at people’s conduct.”

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