News (USA)

Texas anti-gay marriage bill in limbo with time running out


Updated: 8:30 p.m. CDT

AUSTIN, Texas — An effort by Texas Republicans to defy the U.S. Supreme Court if gay marriage is legalized hung in limbo Thursday, as Democrats tried to run out the clock on bill that would prohibit government employees from issuing wedding licenses to same-sex couples.

Republicans have until midnight to pass the measure in the Texas House, which they overwhelmingly control. But dozens of other bills are stacked ahead in line.

Nearly every House Republican is listed as a sponsor of 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.

Dell Inc. this week became the most visible company to oppose it publicly. The Texas-based computer maker says it told Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that the company considers diversity a “business imperative.”

Abbott said Thursday night his focus was on tax cuts and the budget when asked if the House needed to pass the bill.

Outnumbered Democrats are trying to bleed the clock to midnight. They stalled with lengthy debates over noncontroversial issues and tied up the floor with a no-hope bill to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, knowing that Republicans would have sacrifice other legislation to move up the anti-gay marriage measure.

“How many hostages are they willing to shoot?” Democratic state Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer said.

Conservatives remain confident there is time. Republican state Rep. Cecil Bell, who authored the bill, said both sides had optimism.

The atmosphere in the Capitol matched the slow pace on the floor. The House gallery was largely empty as neither supporters nor opponents of HB 4105 made their presence known.

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Texas Republicans see the bill as a way to put the state at the forefront of resistance if the Supreme Court upholds same-sex marriage. If signed by Abbott, it could lay the groundwork for Texas to potentially raise new legal battles over its ability to regulate marriage licenses.

Legal experts have casted doubt over how much success Texas would have mounting such a challenge.

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.

With the Texas Legislature less than three weeks from 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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