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Panel Considers Decriminalizing Homosexual Conduct

A House panel today considered bills that would decriminalize homosexual sex in Texas.

State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, listens to testimony as chairman of the Criminal Jurisprudence committee on April 5, 2011.

A House panel today considered bills that would decriminalize homosexual sex in Texas. 

Supporters testified before the House Committee on Jurisprudence on HB 604 and HB 2156. Both would remove "homosexual conduct" from the Texas penal code. 

Currently, the Texas penal code recognizes the act of sex between members of the same sex as, "deviate" sexual behavior, classified as a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by as much as a $500 fine, though police do not enforce the law, because it is unconstitutional. 

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, and author of HB 2156, said the U.S. Supreme Court had nullified similar state laws because of the equal protection clause in the Constitution. Coleman's bill would also amend part of the Health and Safety Code that says homosexual conduct is not an “acceptable lifestyle,” in sexual education materials. 

Rep. Jose Aliseda, R-Beeville, said that removal of language in the Health and Safety Code seemed more like a policy statement than a correction of the law. 

"I can understand removing the language that it's a criminal offense, but is this not going a step too far?” Aliseda asked. 

Coleman said that, while the code mentions homosexuality as a "lifestyle," it also cites the Texas penal code section that declares homosexuality as a illegal behavior. 

“The idea of someone saying something is a lifestyle is offensive to most people because it's an orientation, not a lifestyle,” Coleman said. “If you ask people from the GLBT community, they will tell you it is not a lifestyle, it's who they are.” 

Both HB 2156 and HB 604 were left pending in committee.

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Criminal justice State government 82nd Legislative Session State agencies Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Texas Legislature