Tuesday, April 26, 2005

House Approves Gay-Marriage Ban

According to the Quorum Report (4/25/04), -- “Rep. Sefronia Thompson (D-Houston) asked, tongue-in-cheek, whether Chisum also was willing to outlaw adultery, fornication and incest, which were all threats to marriage. She later gave a fiery speech paralleling the intolerance against gay marriage with the intolerance against interracial marriage of her childhood. Thompson told the House that HJR 6 was about hate and fear and discrimination.

"I know something about hate and fear and discrimination. When I was a small girl, white folks used to talk about ‘protecting the institution of marriage’ as well. What they meant was if people of my color tried to marry people of Mr. Chisum's color, you'd often find the people of my color hanging from a tree," Thompson said. "That's what the white folks did back then to ‘protect marriage.’ Fifty years ago, white folks thought inter-racial marriages were a ‘threat to the institution of marriage.’"

This is sad. I imagine that the Supreme Court will ultimately weigh in on this issue of legalized discrimination in Texas. -Angela

House approves gay-marriage ban

Proposed constitutional amendment still needs Senate, voter approval.
By Michelle M. Martinez
> Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Efforts to add a ban on gay marriage to the state constitution advanced Monday when the Texas House of Representatives approved the measure with a necessary two-thirds vote.

Critics were particularly concerned about an amendment to the resolution that they say would ban gay and straight couples from civil unions.

In Texas, same-sex marriages are forbidden, and civil unions are not recognized.

The 101 members who voted in favor of the resolution, which was sponsored by Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, would let Texas voters decide whether the constitution should be amended to say that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

"The Texas Legislature continues to push policies that hurt real Texas families by denying children of placement in loving homes and by closing the door on loving, committed couples from the ability to care for one another and their family," said Heath Riddles, communications director for the Lesbian-Gay Rights Lobby of Texas.

Riddles was referring to a House amendment that was tacked on to a Child Protective Services reform bill last week. That amendment, by Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, would ban gays and lesbians from being foster parents.

The bill voted on Monday must be approved one more time before it can clear the House and go to the Senate, where it will need approval from two-thirds of the senators to pass. It then would need to be approved by voters.

In 2003, lawmakers made marriage between two people of the same sex and civil unions void in Texas. That measure included a provision that the state would not recognize such unions. When the Legislature passed the bill, also known as the Defense of Marriage Act, state law already prohibited issuing marriage licenses to people of the same sex.

The bill approved Monday would take the issue a step further by amending the constitution — if voters approve. If the Senate agrees, the measure would be put on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Chisum said the move to put the language in the constitution would help should a legal challenge to the marriage act arise.

"I think it's something that's going around in the different areas, and we can prevent all of that by putting this into the constitution, by placing that question in front of the people of the state," Chisum said.

Fifteen states have constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman, and voters in three others have yet to decide.

Some lawmakers questioned Chisum's motive for wanting to amend the constitution and accused him of playing politics.

"I want the body to clearly understand here that we are not doing anymore with this amendment than what exists now in the state of Texas," Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said before abstaining from the vote. "We are making a political statement just for the point of making the statement."

Lawmakers were particularly concerned about the amendment that says the state or a political subdivision of the state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage. The proposal would ban civil unions in the state, but there was some confusion as to the effects it would have on common-law marriages. Chisum assured lawmakers it would not affect such marriages.

Kelly Shackelford, president of the Free Market Foundation, agreed. He said the amendment was meant to prevent a situation such as the one in California, where the legislature passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman and then created domestic partnerships — not considered marriages — for same-sex couples.

"The other side has been very ingenious in trying to do end runs around the people's wishes," said Shackelford, whose Plano organization pushes for less government, lower taxes and "solid family values."

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, said the measure limits the rights of all unmarried Texans and is a diversion from the real issues facing families.

"It will do nothing to lower property taxes, fully fund our public schools, provide health insurance for children of the working poor and protect abused and neglected kids," she said in a prepared statement. "Shameful votes like this one . . . are designed simply to play politics at the expense of a vulnerable minority in our state."; 445-3633
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  1. Ask just about anyone. They'll all tell you they're in favor of equal rights for homosexuals. Just name the situation, and ask. They'll all say, yes, gays should have the same rights in housing, jobs, public accomodations, and should have equal access to government benefits, equal protection of the law, etcetera, etcetera. Then you get to gay marriage. And that's when all this talk of equality stops dead cold.

    More than half of all people in the United States oppose gay marriage, even though three fourths are otherwise supportive of gay rights. This means that many of the same people who are even passionately in favor of gay rights oppose gays on this one issue.

    Why all the passion? It's because there is a lot of misunderstanding about what homosexuality really is, as well as the erroneous assumption that gay people enjoy the same civil rights protections as everyone else. There are also a lot of stereotypes about gay relationships, and even a great deal of misunderstanding of what marriage itself is all about and what its purpose is.

    The values that such gay couples exhibit in their daily lives are often indistinguishable from those of their straight neighbors. They're loyal to their mates, are monogamous, devoted partners. They value and participate in family life, are committed to making their neighborhoods and communities safer and better places to live, and honor and abide by the law. Many make valuable contributions to their communities, serving on school boards, volunteering in community charities, and trying to be good citizens. In doing so, they take full advantage of their relationship to make not only their own lives better, but those of their neighbors as well.

    Additionally, many people continue to believe the propaganda from right-wing religious organizations that homosexuality is about nothing but sex, considering it to be merely a sexual perversion. The reality is that homosexuality is multidimensional, and is much more about love and affection than it is about sex. And this is what gay relationships are based on -- mutual attraction, love and affection. Sex, in a committed gay relationship, is merely a means of expressing that love, just the same as it is for heterosexuals. Being gay is much more profound than simply a sexual relationship; being gay is part of that person's core indentity, and goes right the very center of his being. It's like being black in a society of whites, or a blonde European in a nation of black-haired Asians. Yes, being gay is just that profound to the person who is. This is something that few heterosexuals can understand unless they are part of a minority themselves.

    One of these is the fact that in most states, they cannot make medical decisions for their partners in an emergency. Instead, the hospitals are usually forced by state laws to go to the families who may have been estranged from them for decades, who are often hostile to them, and can and frequently do, totally ignore their wishes regarding the treatment of their partners. If a hostile family wishes to exclude them from the hospital room, they may legally do so in most states. It is even not uncommon for hostile families to make decisions based on their hostility -- with results consciously intended to be as inimical to the interests of the patient as possible! Is this fair?

    Upon death, in many cases, even very carefully drawn wills and durable powers of attorney have proven to not be enough if a family wishes to challenge a will, overturn a custody decision, or exclude them from a funeral or deny them the right to visit a partner's hospital bed or grave. As survivors, estranged families can, in nearly all states, even sieze a real estate property that a gay couple may have been buying together for many years, quickly sell it at the largest possible loss, and stick the surviving partner with all the remaining mortgage obligations on a property that partner no longer owns, leaving him out on the street, penniless. There are hundreds of examples of this, even in many cases where the gay couple had been extremely careful to do everything right under current law, in a determined effort to protect their rights. Is this fair?

    No, it is not. As State Representative Thompson stated, this intolerance of gay marriage parallels the intolerance of interracial marriage. It is nothing more than legalized discrimination and it needs to stop.

  2. Rep. Senfronia Thompson is quoted as saying in a speech from the House floor, “I know something about hate and fear and discrimination.” She should – she’s voted twice for laws that are considered by many to be “legalized discrimination.”

    In her speech, she compares what is being done in Texas now to what was done to prevent interracial marriages in the name of “protecting marriage.” With all due respect to Rep. Thompson’s struggles, however, it is important to point out that in the past two legislative sessions she has been on the wrong side of the vote if her goal is to stop discrimination against gay people.

    In the 77th legislature a bill was on the floor relating to property rights in marriage. In the course of debate an amendment was offered which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Rep. Thompson voted for the amendment. During the next session, a bill was on the floor that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and banned civil unions. Once again, the representative voted for the measure. If she now compares these measures to the lynch mobs of years past, then how could she possibly have voted for them?

    A possible answer can be found in the archives of the House floor debates. During the 77th Legislature Rep. Glenn Maxey, and openly gay man, rose to the floor to speak in favor of the amendment that defined spouses as only heterosexuals. He stated that he would be voting favorably and he asked his colleagues to do so as well. It is likely he did so to undercut any political fall out that opponents to the measure may have experienced in the future. Rep. Thompson did as she was asked.

    Rep. Maxey was not in the House last session when the ban on gay marriage and civil unions was passed. However, when Rep. Thompson voted in favor of that bill one could posit that she did so for the same reason. What does that say for the representative?

    Instead of making a stand and possibly experiencing political difficulties from voting against the two measures, she chose to be safe and vote for them - that way, opponents couldn’t touch her on that issue. However, if the comparison she makes now, that such measures are equal to lynching in the name of “protecting marriage,” is one she really believes, then how could she have ever voted for a ban on gay marriage and civil unions? Would she have been understanding of legislators who voted for similar reasons back then?

  3. Politics is such a funny game. With all of it rules and justifications infused in declarations of definitions, it is a contradiction in its very self. Perhaps this complexity is what I love most about such an intriguing game and the power it holds in shaping so many lives. Whatever it is, I must say though it is issues such as this and their ability to afflict the deepest of my conscious that leave me questioning the integrity of a society that succumbs to fears that stem only from unknowing. It is in our very differences that distinctions become live essences capable of creating fears that perpetuate our own insecurities, whatever they may be. I just can not understand how though a decision between two individuals can impact another's if they have no previous interaction. This debate over the preservation of the "sanctity of marriage", when I can see numerous representations that prove otherwise. My very mother has been married five times and my partners had been remarried four times. Of all of these nine marriages, as a member of this community all I ask for is one chance to have this experience, not five… only one. I must say that some times it is okay to stand still. One doesn’t always have to move forward if they are not ready, but rarely is stepping backwards the answer. When society allowed the institution of slavery to persist, they did not write it into law saying that this injustice was by law, permissible. Not once yet has our constitution been used as a tool for social or racial oppression. So why now in this new day of diverse conscious have we allowed our constitution to limit freedoms other than granting rights? Society may not be ready to move forward on this issue, so standing still for this moment is ok… but I do sincerely hope that we do not step backwards on this issue…