HOUSTON VOICE www.houston voice.com
APRIL 18, 2003
| local nevus
House panel already has OK'd its own DOMA
TX DOMA, continued from Page 1
Dewhurst, according to Ellis. That was a
strategic move to allow the bill to be
assigned a lower number, indicating a
higher priority, Ellis said.
Wentworth has said S.B. 7 is essential to
clarify existing law. Texas currently limits
the issue of marriage licenses to people of
the opposite sex but the state does not
specifically address other "civil unions,"
the senator said.
"I believe Texas should adopt as its public policy that traditional marriage is
between one man and one woman, and that
this state should not recognize civil unions
entered into in Vermont and possibly
other states in the future," Wentworth told
the Houston Chronicle.
Vermont is the only state that recognizes same-sex civil unions. Since Vermont
approved its bill in 2000, lawmakers in five
states — California, Connecticut, Hawaii,
Rhode Island and Washington — have introduced civil union legislation, according to
the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.
On the other hand, 36 states across the
country have enacted laws in recent years
that limit legal recognition of marriages
to heterosexual couples.
"Clearly the point of the bill is to encourage and protect the institution that is fundamental to our whole society and that is traditional marriage," Wentworth said.
"People talk about discrimination as
though it were a bad thing," he said in
defending the bill. "It is something we do
all the time."
Wentworth said the bill does not diminish "my feeling of respect and even love for
friends and acquaintances and people that
I know who are gay. I have great respect for
those people," he said. "This bill has nothing to do with that."
Two other senators challenged
Wentworth, the Chronicle reported.
"Some people would say this is just mean-
spirited," said Sen. John Whitmire, D-
Houston, the newspaper reported. "It's directed at elements of our society that most of
whom just want to be left alone, go to work,
Randall Ellis, executive director of the
Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, said bills such
as the state Defense of Marriage Act show that
Texas Senators Gonzalo Barrientos (left), D-Austin, and John Whitmire, D-Houston, challenged the Senates
DOMA. Barrientos said, 'Because of little ol' Vermont, big of Texas has to pass this piece of legislation?'
Texas Senators Rodney Ellis (left) and Mario Gallegos, both Democrats and both from Houston, were among
those who voted against the DOMA approved by the state Senate this week.
pay taxes and not create problems for anyone.
"You've introduced legislation that
speaks to their lifestyle, tries to change a
law that doesn't need changing," he added.
Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin,
said, "Because of little ol' Vermont, big ol'
Texas has to pass this piece of legislation?" the Chronicle reported.
Whitmire pointed out that Texas
Attorney General Greg Abbott, citing existing law, recently persuaded a Beaumont
judge to reverse his decision granting a
divorce to two men who had been joined in
a Vermont civil union. Abbott argued that
Texas law "does [not] recognize civil
unions established in other jurisdictions."
"Your law is not necessary," Whitmire
told Wentworth, the Chronicle reported.
But Wentworth argued that the attorney general does not write state law.
"Only the Legislature may do that, and
that's what this bill does," Wentworth said,
according to the Chronicle. "It sets state
The Senate DOMA passed on a vote of
22-7, with "no" votes cast by Democrats
Whitmire, Barrientos, Rodney Ellis and
Mario Gallegos of Houston, Eliot
Shapleigh of El Paso, Royce West of Dallas
and Judish Zaffirini of Laredo.
• Federal legislation already allows
states to refuse to honor same-sex unions.
Congress approved and President Bill
Clinton signed the federal Defense of
Marriage Act in 1996 to prohibit federal
recognition of gay marriages. DOMA also
purports to grant states the right not to
recognize same-sex marriages performed
in other states.
The federal law also creates a definition
of marriage as a "legal union between one
man and one woman as husband and wife."
Last session, a Texas Defense of
Marriage Act was passed out of the
Senate, but failed to make it out of committee in the House, LGRL officials noted.
Lobbyists contend that the shift in the balance of power in the House after the
November elections increases the possibility of this session's bill passing both chambers of the Legislature.
S.B. 7's House companion, House Bill 38,
already has been approved by the House
Committee on State Affairs. Authored by
Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, H.B. 38
soon will be scheduled for a vote by the full
Texas House of Representatives.
Ellis said he has doubts whether the
Texas DOMA would hold up to U.S.
Supreme Court scrutiny in the coming
years if it did become law, according to a
LGRL press release.
"In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck
down laws that prohibited interracial marriages, because they deprived individuals
of the fundamental right to marry," Ellis
said. "This bill clearly violates the fundamental rights of gays and lesbians."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas
P.O. Box 2340
Austin, TX 78768
OUT ON THE BAYOU
RAVE ACT: President George W. Bush has said
he will sign an anti-drug bill that gay events promoters say could curb popular circuit parties.
UNDER FIRE: Rev. Steve Van Kuiken is on trial
for shunning Presbyterian ban on gay marriages.
VIEWPOINT: Columnist Mubarak Dahir says
regime change in Irag does not necessarily
translate to greater freedom for gays. Page 12.
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