With the future of Texas’ constitutional ban on same-sex marriage uncertain, Republican leaders on Monday pledged to continue the state’s fight against allowing gay couples to wed.
“This Texas Senate, this lieutenant governor, we stand with you, for we should always stand with the will of the people,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told a crowd of more than 200 supporters gathered on the Capitol steps to rally in support of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The constitutionality of the state’s decade-old gay marriage ban is currently being considered at the federal level after two same-sex couples challenged the law. The Texas case is among dozens of challenges to state same-sex marriage bans that barreled through the courts after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.
The state’s gay marriage ban is said to be on precarious legal ground, but that hasn’t stopped Texas Republicans from fighting against gay marriage on other legal and legislative fronts.
At the rally where supporters held signs that read “I support biblical marriage,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton highlighted his office’s defense of the gay marriage ban and its intervention after two Austin women obtained a marriage license through a court order. Paxton asked the state Supreme Court to void the license and prohibit the issuance of similar court orders.
“I’ve been in office a whole two and a half months. We’re not done yet,” Paxton said.
Last week, Paxton filed suit against the Obama administration for giving family and medical leave benefits to certain same-sex couples through executive action, even if they live in a state, like Texas, that does not recognize gay marriage.
In the Capitol, state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, and state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, have filed bills to establish the “Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act” to prevent gay marriage from becoming legal. The measure would prohibit taxes or public funds from being used to issue same-sex marriage licenses or be used to enforce a court order to recognize same-sex marriage.
“As has been said many times today, this is about states' rights,” Bell said at the rally. ”It’s about the rights of the state of Texas and other states to define and to regulate marriage.”
The bill would also require state courts to dismiss legal actions that challenge a provision of the bill and award legal costs and attorney fees to the defendants. Citing the 11th Amendment, which gives states sovereign immunity, the bill also says the state isn’t subject to a lawsuit for complying with the act — regardless of a contradictory federal ruling.
Among the rally attendees was Vivian Spence, an Austinite who said she opposes allowing same-sex couples to marry because it is contrary to social norms.
“I believe in one man and woman is exactly what we must have — if not, our society will crumble," Spence said.
The rally was held the same day as Equality Texas’ Family Advocacy Day. Representatives from the group, which lobbies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, were visiting lawmakers garnering support for its legislative agenda.
At a January hearing, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals signaled doubt about the constitutionality of the ban. The court is expected to rule in the coming months on Texas’ gay marriage ban. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to have the final word on the issue. It’s set to hear four gay marriage cases from other states next month.
On Monday, two of the plaintiffs in the Texas case before the appeals court, Nicole Dimetman and Cleopatra DeLeon, announced the birth of their second child, who was born over the weekend.
“We are overjoyed with the birth of our new baby girl, but disappointed bans on same-sex marriage harm children, like our daughter and our son,” DeLeon said in a statement. “It is unfair to deny loving parents like us the basic legal protections that provide stability and security so critical to child rearing.”