Texas anti-gay marriage bill dead for now as deadline passes

Texas state capitol in Austin

Texas state capitol in Austin

Texas state capitol in Austin

Texas state capitol in Austin

AUSTIN, Texas — Efforts by Texas Republicans to defy the U.S. Supreme Court if gay marriage is legalized took a major setback Friday when time expired on a bill that would prohibit government employees from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Republicans had until midnight to pass the measure in the Texas House, which they overwhelmingly control. But the bill never even reached a vote as outnumbered Democrats used stall tactics to keep the bill at the back of the line.

“We’re sending a message to Texas that this is worth fighting for. We’re not in the majority. We don’t control the ship. But we can help to steer it in the right direction,” Democratic state Rep. Celia Israel said.

Nearly every House Republican sponsored the legislation. But Texas business groups, pointing to backlash over recent Indiana and Arkansas laws that gay rights activists consider discriminatory, have urged lawmakers to set similar measures aside.

Israel, one of two openly gay members of the Texas House, described it as a difficult day awaiting the fate of the measure. In February, a member of her staff married her lesbian partner in Austin after getting permission from a judge – the first gay couple in Texas to marry since a 2005 state constitutional ban on gay marriage.

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Three weeks later, Republican state Rep. Cecil Bell filed his bill to prohibit state and local officials from giving marriage licenses to gay couples.

Bell said early Friday he wasn’t giving up, but with only two weeks left before the Legislature adjourns, there is no easy path for another chance. More than 20 bills were still stacked in front of Bell’s when time expired.

“There was a bunch of folks who don’t think that state sovereignty is a high priority,” Bell said.

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