AUSTIN, Texas — Divisive efforts by Texas Republicans to defy the U.S. Supreme Court if same-sex marriage is legalized ended Wednesday night with conservative finger-pointing and opponents feeling relieved.
The first session under Republican Gov. Greg Abbott will end next week without a measure that gay rights activists considered one of the harshest in any U.S. statehouse: restrictions that would prohibit government officials from giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The bill was filed in March after a Texas judge gave an Austin lesbian couple permission to marry. Republicans made no secret about seeing the bill as a path to new legal challenges if the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage later this summer.
Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a tea party leader who controls the Senate, lobbed a veiled barb across the Capitol as the bill sunk.
“I stand here proud as the House decided not to have this discussion or this debate,” Patrick said.
In reality, neither chamber had a debate. The House, which Republicans control nearly 2-to-1 but which is more moderate than the Senate, never brought the bill up for a vote before a deadline earlier this month.
The Senate deadline for passing bills was midnight Wednesday. But with less than four hours to go – likely enough time for Democrats to run out the clock if the bill came up – the proposal was dropped. Republicans instead only passed a resolution that reaffirmed their belief of marriage being between a man and a woman.
Article continues below“Good legislation was sacrificed, but appropriately so to see this language fail,” said Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman, whose unrelated bill was used by the Senate to carry the marriage-license amendment. “It is offensive to my constituents, it’s offensive to me, and it’s offensive to our constitution.”
The new battle over same-sex marriage drew opposition all session from Texas business groups. Texas-based Dell Inc. said it told Abbott that the company considers diversity a “business imperative.”
The Alabama Supreme Court earlier this year already prohibited county officials in that state from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But legal experts had cast doubt over how much success Texas would have had in court if the bill passed.
“I don’t know what the Supreme Court is going to decide, but I’m not as concerned about being on the wrong side of history as I am being on the wrong side of what I believe,” Patrick said.
Earlier Wednesday, the Texas House passed a bill reorganizing a state family agency – without divisive rules allowing private child welfare agencies to block gays and same-sex couples from adopting children on religious grounds.
The lower chamber voted 146-0 to advance an overhaul of the Department of Family and Protective Services. The bill already cleared the Senate.
House social conservatives had planned to attach an amendment before a preliminary approval vote that came Tuesday. It would have protected child agencies that object to gay and same-sex adoptions for religious reasons from being sued.
Article continues belowDemocrats opposed it and slowed debate down, however. With a key deadline looming at midnight Tuesday, the amendment was abandoned.
It could have resurfaced Wednesday during final approval, but didn’t. The final vote didn’t include any amendments.
The Legislature adjourns June 1.