Texas GOP pushes anti‑gay religious freedom bill on heels of Supreme Court hearing

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Estes noted that Justice Antonin Scalia this week wrestled with the effect legalized gay marriage would have on clergy members who would object to officiating a ceremony for religious reasons.

Mary Bonauto, who represented same-sex couples in the case, told Scalia that clergy members already have those protections.

In February, a lesbian couple in Austin became the first same-sex couple towed in Texas since voters passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2005. They had received a permission from a judge, and Texas Republicans are now pushing laws that would bar state and local government employees from licensing or recognizing same-sex marriages, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who took office in January, opposes same-sex marriage but has not made religious objection laws or other anti-gay marriage efforts part of his public agenda.

Democrats and some gay rights activists see the new Senate bill as a way for Republicans – who overwhelmingly control the Texas Legislature – to respond to conservative voters with a Supreme Court decision imminent.

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Chuck Smith, executive director of the gay rights group Equality Texas, said he actually has little issue with a similar bill that was previously filed in the House.

Smith said he supports religious liberty and worked with the Republican author, who has described his measure as a “shield, not a sword.” Smith said it’s the other efforts that concern him more.

“I treat is as part of a backlash,” Smith said. “They are strategically either trying to defy a ruling or find other ways in order to preserve the ability to discriminate.”

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