*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
House Republicans want Texans to know they still oppose same-sex marriage – even if foot-dragging Democrats thwarted a debate on the polarizing subject Thursday night.
The House Republican Caucus on Friday released a letter reaffirming its support of the state’s long-standing ban on gay marriage, calling marriage between a man and woman a “principle that is so dearly held by Texans far and wide.”
“This letter provides legislative support and a legal foundation for the Texas constitutional provision,” Kelly Carnal, executive director of the caucus, said in a statement.
The letter was signed by 93 of the 98 House Republicans. Those who did not sign were: Sarah Davis of West University Place, Jason Villalba of Dallas, Matt Schaefer of Tyler, Larry Gonzales of Round Rock and Speaker Joe Straus.
As speaker, Straus doesn’t typically sign any such letters. Schaefer declined to sign the letter out of disappointment and frustration after the House failed to move a proposal aiming to protect the state's marriage laws.
"I wanted action, not just words in the journal," he said. "We need a loud clear message to ring in the ears of the Supreme Court that people believe in marriage, as God instituted it, around the country. But unfortunately, the headline will be, the Texas House failed to act."
At midnight on Friday – the deadline for passing bills originating in the House – time ran out on House Bill 4105, which would have forbidden state or local governments from using public funds to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Rep. Cecil Bell’s legislation was meant to pre-empt a potential U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling paving the way for same-sex marriage nationwide.
Gay rights groups and legal scholars have criticized the bill as unconstitutional and outlandish.
Enough Republicans had signed on as co-sponsors to guarantee the bill's passage had it reached the floor, and Democrats spent Thursday prolonging debate in an attempt to run down the clock and prevent Bell's legislation from being heard — a practice called "chubbing." They were ultimately successful.
But Schaefer said Republicans shared responsibility for the bill's demise, because they placed it too low on the calendar.
"It should have been a priority and it wasn't," he said. "If issues we care about as conservatives are not heard in a chamber dominated by Republicans, you have nothing but Republicans to blame."
Bell said he might not be done pushing his proposal this session, because he could still attach language as an amendment to a related Senate bill.
Bobby Blanchard and Eva Hershaw contributed to this report.
- GOP Caucus Letter On Marriage (2.4 MB) DOWNLOAD