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The Brief: June 24, 2015

Texas voters are split on whether gay marriages should be legal, with age playing a crucial role in how voters view the issue, the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found.

During the Defense of Texas Marriage Amendment Rally on Mar. 23, 2015 at the Texas Capitol, a protester raises questions of marriage sanctity noting celebrities who've been married multiple times.

The Big Conversation

With an imminent U.S. Supreme Court decision on the issue, Texas voters are split on whether gay marriages should be legal.

The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll finds neither side of the issue got a majority of support from Texas voters, and 14 percent of voters said they were unsure which side they want Supreme Court justices to back.

And as the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports, age is a crucial determinant of how voters view the issue:

The overall numbers hide ideological, religious and other differences. Democrats favor gay marriage by a 3-to-1 margin; 25 percent of Republicans agree with them, while 60 percent oppose such unions.

Women favor it 50 percent to 36 percent; among men, 38 percent approve of gay marriage while 47 percent oppose it.

Among those who say religion is extremely important in their lives, 62 percent are opposed to gay marriage. Meanwhile, 82 percent of those who say religion is not important to them at all are in favor of it. ...

The older Texans are, on average, the more opposed they are to gay marriage. While 66 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 favor it, only 27 percent of those older than 64 approve.

Voters were similarly split on whether businesses should be able to refuse to serve gay and lesbian customers. And in a question addressing another hot-button social issue, about 68 percent of Texas voters want lower penalties for those possessing small amounts of marijuana.

New numbers are also out elsewhere on the still-early state of the race for Houston mayor. A new poll from KHOU and KUHF finds state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, has a narrow lead over Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia among likely voters in the Houston mayor's race.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Trib Must-Reads

Wallace Hall Sues UT System Chancellor McRaven, by Matthew Watkins — In an effort to gain access to confidential student information, University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall has sued the chancellor of the system he oversees.

Van de Putte Company Dropping Confederate Flags, by Liz Crampton — Pete Van de Putte — owner of Dixie Flag Manufacturing Company and husband of former state Senator and San Antonio mayoral candidate Leticia Van de Putte — changed his mind Tuesday and decided to stop making and selling Confederate flags. 

New Consul Takes on Mexico's Texas Diaspora, by Julián Aguilar — In an interview with the Tribune, Carlos González Gutiérrez, Mexico's newest general consul in Austin, discusses the challenges of reaching out to the state's diverse communities of Mexican nationals, and how he interacts with state leaders at the Capitol.

Visualization: A Shrinking Texas Death Row, by Jolie McCullough — The number of inmates on Texas’ death row is falling. At its peak in 1999, 460 men and women were living with a death sentence in Texas, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. Today, there are 260.

Toll Road Projects in Limbo Following Session, by Aman Batheja — Texas' network of tolled highways stretches for more than 500 miles, but its growth was curtailed this session as lawmakers passed several measures that make it tougher for toll projects to move forward.

Trade Clears Senate Hurdle, Despite Cruz Backing Out, by Abby Livingston — Despite Sen. Ted Cruz’s eleventh-hour change of heart on the biggest vote since he became a presidential candidate, the U.S. Senate cleared a major procedural hurdle Tuesday that will likely give President Obama the authority to negotiate the largest trade deal in American history.

In First Session, Abbott Keeps Drama to a Minimum, by Patrick Svitek — Gov. Greg Abbott, who took office in January as an enigma to even Capitol veterans, has ended his first session with a reputation as a thoughtful behind-the-scenes player with a less aggressive approach than his predecessor had.

After Vandalism, UT to Weigh Confederate Statues' Future, by Matthew Watkins — On the same day that three statues commemorating Confederate leaders were vandalized at the University of Texas at Austin, campus leaders said they may soon decide whether to remove the statues. 

The Day Ahead

•   Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith moderates a discussion on health care and the 84th Legislature at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio with state Reps. Donna Howard, D-Austin; Susan King, R-Abilene; and J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, all of whom have worked in the medical field. RSVP or watch online at noon.


Court rejects Texas religious challenge to Obamacare, Austin American-Statesman

Texas lags behind the national average in rate of uninsured adults, Austin American-Statesman

Feds face possible sanctions over immigrant work permits, San Antonio Express-News

Texas Has a Great, and Most Unusual, Economic Stimulus Package, Bloomberg

Why Ted Cruz Can't Quit the Gay Marriage Fight, Bloomberg

Putin’s Plot to Get Texas to Secede, Politico

Parties Gear Up for Crucial Test in Only Competitive Texas District, Roll Call

Texas Turns Away From Prosecuting Truants, NPR

Bexar County Clerk, a Republican, to accommodate gay couples if SCOTUS legalizes same-sex marriage, San Antonio Express-News

Charleston massacre fuels outrage over Austin’s Confederate relics, Austin American-Statesman

Dallas council chair still warm as Dwaine Caraway eyes new seat: John Wiley Price’s, Dallas Morning News

Dallas ISD board president: Superintendent Mike Miles decided to resign after disagreement over contract, Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

"I thought he came out of it completely unscathed. Nary a scratch."

Bill Miller, a longtime lobbyist, on how Gov. Greg Abbott avoided drama in the 2015 legislative session.

News From Home

•   Legislation related to abortion and gay marriage led to some contentious debates during the 84th legislative session. Use our Texas Legislative Guide to see what lawmakers decided on social issues this session.

•   In this week's edition of the Trib+Health newsletter: Rural hospitals nationwide run risk of closing, flooding is reminder of drowning risks and an interview with Gary Reed of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation About Houston and the 84th Legislature on June 29 at George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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