Texas Republicans could take new stand on same-sex marriage

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Texas Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, talks about his proposed bill that would penalize county and local officials for issuing gay marriage licenses, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Austin, Texas. Nearly every Republican in the Texas House is backing a measure that would prohibit state and local officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Less than three weeks remain in Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s first session, and the bill must clear the House by midnight Thursday to advance.Eric Gay, AP

Texas Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, talks about his proposed bill that would penalize county and local officials for issuing gay marriage licenses, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Austin, Texas. Nearly every Republican in the Texas House is backing a measure that would prohibit state and local officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Less than three weeks remain in Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s first session, and the bill must clear the House by midnight Thursday to advance.

Updated: 5:30 p.m. CDT

AUSTIN, Texas — Racing both a U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage and legislative deadlines, Texas Republicans pushed ahead Tuesday toward putting the state at the forefront of resistance if same-sex weddings are ruled constitutional.

Nearly every Republican in the Texas House is backing a measure that would prohibit state and local officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Less than three weeks remain in Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s first session, and the bill must clear the House by midnight Thursday to advance.

If signed by Abbott, the bill would aim to defy the Supreme Court if it legalizes gay marriage, laying the groundwork for Texas to potentially raise new legal battles over its ability to regulate marriage licenses.

“It would certainly put the state in a position to challenge,” said Republican state Rep. Cecil Bell, who filed the bill shortly after a Texas judge allowed a lesbian couple to wed despite a statewide ban on gay marriage.

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The Alabama Supreme Court earlier this year already prohibited county officials in that state from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Lawmakers in South Carolina are also pushing a bill similar to what was filed in Texas, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which tracks gay rights issues.

Abbott didn’t give hot-button social issues legislative priority after taking office in January. But with the Texas Legislature now close to adjourning, Republicans have accelerated legislation that gay rights activists consider hostile. This week began with the Senate giving approval for clergy members to refuse to perform marriages that violate their religious beliefs.

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