Houston lawmaker targets gay marriage ban

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A handful of state lawmakers on Monday filed four bills to bring gay marriage to Texas, firing the first salvo in what could be a contentious legislative session over marriage equality.

State Sen. José Rodríguez filed SJR 13 to repeal the state's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Houston Rep. Garnet Coleman filed a companion bill, HJR 34. The legislation, if passed, would force a public vote to repeal the ban. Sen. Juan Hinojosa, who has a lesbian daughter, filed SB 98, enabling language for the constitutional repeal bills that would undo the state's statutory ban on gay marriage. Rep. Rafael Anchia filed the companion bill, HB 130.

The bills came on Monday, the first day of pre-filing for the upcoming legislative session. Coleman (photo) says his bill is another step in his long-running effort to repeal the gay marriage ban, which passed in 2005. 

“The persistent advocacy from the LGBT community and allies have turned the tide in public opinion, and in this way we have already won,” Coleman (photo) writes on his blog in a post titled, It's Time for Marriage Equality.

“All we have left to do now is make sure our laws reflect the will of the American people. I am pleased that so many of my colleagues have joined me in fighting for equality. Joining me on Monday are Senator Jose Rodriguez, who will file the Senate companion to my bill, along with Representative Rafael Anchia and Senator Juan Hinojosa, who will file house and senate bills repealing the statutory bans,” he adds.

Also on Monday, Equality Texas urged supporters to lobby their state lawmakers to support the measures.

On November 10th, the first day to file legislation for the 84th Texas Legislature, four lawmakers stepped forward and took the lead in securing the freedom to marry for all Texans. HB 130 by Rep. Rafael Anchia, HJR 34 by Rep. Garnet Coleman, SB 98 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa” and SJR 13 by Sen. José Rodríguez work together to put a constitutional amendment on the Nov 2015 ballot to extend the freedom to marry to Texas. The nation and the people of Texas have evolved on the issue of marriage since Texas voters approved an amendment to ban it in 2005. Attitudes have changed and it's time to change the law to reflect it.

The appeal from the LGBT group includes an online search to identify your lawmakers for lobbying.

The legislative session opens on Jan. 13, just days after oral arguments are scheduled for a federal lawsuit challenging the state's gay marriage ban. The case will be heard by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will also hear arguments in a gay marriage challenge in Louisiana.

Rodríguez says it's time for gay couples in Texas to enjoy the freedom to marry.

“Texas is now only one of 18 states that deny legalized same sex marriage to its residents,” Rodríguez says in a press release. “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.”

Hinojosa's daughter, Kriselda Hinijosa, tells the Texas Observer that her father is again taking a risk by filing the marriage equality legislation, which goes further than the bill he filed in 2013 backing civil unions.

From the Observer:

“He says he’s proud of me, but I’m more proud of him,” Kriselda Hinojosa said. “He’s taking a risk, also, because he could actually lose supporters, but it doesn’t seem to phase him. He’s doing what he thinks is right.”

On Nov. 5, the day after gay and gay-friendly candidates in Houston got trounced at the ballot box, Equality Texas Legislative Specialist Daniel Williams warned that it's time to take action and “set the tone” for next year's legislative session.

“The next session is going to be challenging,” Williams says in a YouTube pitch (below). “The 84th regular session will be a defensive one.”

The legislative session will include two openly gay lawmakers – state Rep. Celia Israel, who won re-election on Nov. 4, and Rep. Mary Gonzalez, who didn't face any opposition last week. But LGBT activists don't expect the marriage equality bills to advance, according to the Observer.

LGBT advocates acknowledge that the marriage-equality bills’ chances of success are slim to none in the GOP-dominated Legislature. But their introduction on the first day of pre-filing, coordinated by Equality Texas, could help alter the tone in advance of a session in which the LGBT community is expected to be on the defensive.

[photo via KVUE]

 

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