The Brief: Gay Marriage Back in Spotlight

Attorney General Greg Abbott speaking at TPPF closing luncheon on Jan. 10, 2014.
Attorney General Greg Abbott speaking at TPPF closing luncheon on Jan. 10, 2014.

The Big Conversation

A big week for gay marriage in Texas has pushed the issue back into the political spotlight.

On Thursday, the state, as expected, filed notice that it would appeal U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s Wednesday ruling striking down Texas' gay marriage ban. The ruling drew the expected reactions from politicians running for office, with Republicans, like Greg Abbott, saying it should be overturned and Democrats, like Wendy Davis, praising it. The case now heads to the conservative U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Also on Thursday, Shelley Kofler of Dallas' KERA reported on a twist in the story: "What does Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott have in common with Mark Phariss, one of the plaintiffs who sued the state to challenge its gay marriage ban? They were law school classmates. They knew each other. Phariss tells KERA they were good friends. … Phariss also says he flew to Abbott’s bedside in 1984 when Abbott was hit by a falling tree limb and paralyzed. They haven’t talked in about 10 years, but they exchange Christmas cards."

Phariss told KERA that he disagreed with Abbott on gay marriage but that didn't "take it personally." In a statement to KERA, Abbott said: "Cecilia and I were, indeed, friends with Mark Phariss. We remember Mark from our law school days and his early days as a lawyer in San Antonio. We remain grateful that Mark visited the hospital during the trying time after my injury. As I said yesterday, there are good, well-meaning people on both sides of this issue. This shows that Americans can in fact debate substantial issues without being disagreeable."

The Day Ahead

•    Early voting ends today! Look up your polling place here.

•    Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is in Waco and Beaumont for campaign events, and lite guv candidate Todd Staples is in The Woodlands and Conroe. 

•     The House Technology Committee meets today at 10 a.m. at the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson to hear public testimony on bringing software jobs to Texas.

Today in the Trib

A Small Subset of Voters Holds a Lot of Sway: "With low turnout in statewide primaries and the two-decade dominance of Republicans, a bloc of a relatively few voters determines how Texas will handle long-term public policy challenges."

Tapped-Out Luling Turns Old Oil Wells Into Art: "Luling, a tapped-out oil town once known as Texas' 'toughest,' has found a unique way to celebrate its heritage: decorating its aging pump jacks with a full cast of characters."

On Lists of Endorsements, the Governor's Name is Rare: "Gov. Rick Perry, the state's top elected official, is missing from all but a handful of candidates' endorsements. Uncharacteristically, his is a mostly secret ballot in this year's Republican primaries."

Head of Juvenile Justice Department Resigns: "After less than two years leading the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Executive Director Mike Griffiths announced Thursday that he is resigning."

Must-Read

Dan Patrick faces fresh claim that he hired workers living in U.S. illegallyAustin American-Statesman

Texas tea party activists disavow StockmanThe Associated Press

Game on: Dallas one of 8 cities vying for RNC 2016The Dallas Morning News

The Internet can't stop making fun of a Texas Republican senator's Twitter typoSan Antonio Express-News

President Barack Obama to visit Austin in April for LBJ Civil Rights SummitAustin American-Statesman

Outrage Over Sexist Remarks Turns Into a Political Fund-Raising Tool, The New York Times

Poll indicates urban rail faces a tough haul in AustinAustin American-Statesman

Cracks force closure of $60M stadium in Allen, ESPN

Quote to Note

"I think Republicans, if they are not careful, will talk themselves out of the electoral college."

— Former state Rep. Aaron Peña on potential long-term effects of Texas GOP candidates trying to out-conservative one another

News From Home

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Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Live Post-Primary Election TribCast at the Austin Club, 3/5

•    A Conversation With Sen. Wendy Davis, 2014 Democratic Candidate for Governor, at Stateside at the Paramount, 3/6

•    A Conversation With Sen. Charles Schwertner and Reps. John Raney and Kyle Kacal at Texas A&M University in College Station, 3/27

•    A Conversation with U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway at Midland College in Midland, 5/13

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21