If you've been following the record-breaking flurry of anti-LGBT bills being filed by Republicans in the Texas legislature, you probably know about HB 4105, introduced by Rep. Cecil Bell, Jr. (R-Magnolia). Bell is the author not one, not two, not three, but four such bills, possibly making him the most actively anti-gay legislator in Texas. HB 4105, however, may take the cake as a frighteningly asinine attempt to preempt a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the right to marry that most seem to expect. I'll let you read the bill text:
SECTION 1. This Act may be cited as the Preservation of
Sovereignty and Marriage Act.
SECTION 2. Section 2.001, Family Code, is amended to read as
(c) State or local funds may not be used for an activity that
includes the licensing or support of a same-sex marriage.
(d) A state or local governmental employee may not
recognize, grant, or enforce a same-sex marriage license.
(e) State or local funds may not be used to enforce an order
requiring the issuance or recognition of a same-sex marriage
In other words, in the very likely event of a SCOTUS ruling striking down marriage bans across the country, clerks in Texas will be faced with a choice: Follow federal law and risk repercussions from the state or follow this mean-spirited, unconstitutional piece of legislation. It would essentially create chaos, which is exactly what Bell and his ilk want--much like the chaos we saw in Alabama following their own marriage equality ruling. More from the Texas Observer
The bill would bar state and local employees from issuing, enforcing or recognizing same-sex marriage licenses—and prohibit public monies from being used to do so—regardless of any court order.
LGBT advocates say if the high court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, HB 4105 would set up a showdown between state and federal law, costing Texas millions of dollars in litigation and potentially delaying the effectiveness of the decision by years. They say the bill would unleash chaos similar to what’s been seen in Alabama over same-sex marriage, and generate the type of business backlash associated with passage of an anti-LGBT religious freedom law in Indiana.
In addition to Bell, HB 4105 is co-authored by 88 other House Republicans. Only nine Republicans hadn’t signed on as co-authors as of Monday morning: Rodney Anderson (Grand Prairie), Sarah Davis (Houston), Craig Goldman (Fort Worth), Todd Hunter (Corpus Christi), Linda Koop (Dallas), Morgan Meyer (Dallas), John Smithee (Amarillo), Speaker Joe Straus (San Antonio) and Jason Villalba (Dallas).
None of the chamber’s 52 Democrats were listed as co-authors.
While HB 4105 was slated for the floor yesterday, it was delayed. It will have to be passed by the end of the legislative session, which is rapidly approaching, barring a special session. If it passes the House, it is expected to sail through Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's Senate, of course. And while Greg Abbott hasn't publicly taken a position, I think we all know where he is going to come down on this.
Which brings is to our Republican Attorney General, Ken Paxton. Alisyn Camerota of CNN's New Day interviewed him today about HB 4105 and whether or not Texas will comply with a SCOTUS ruling in favor of marriage equality. He responded...well, pretty much exactly as you might expect him to respond. Watch here and follow me below for highlights:
Camerota, to her credit, does not let Paxton spout his bullshit unchallenged. When asked why the legislature is considering this bill now, right before SCOTUS rules, Paxton responded, basically, that legislators are reaffirming what upwards of 75 percent of Texas voters wanted in the 2005 vote on the anti-gay constitutional amendment. She then brought out a year-old poll showing a pretty even split on the issue of marriage equality, with 48 percent of Texans supporting it and 47 percent opposing. Paxton responded, again, as you might expect him to respond:
You know, I think it goes back, again, to: Whatever the polling is, the real poll is always what happens on election day. And the voters had an opportunity, you know, several years ago to make their decision about what they wanted on this issue, and it wasn't a close decision.
Right, because Texas hasn't made enormous
strides on this issue--like the rest of the country--since 200-fucking-5. Never mind the sand shifting beneath these GOP dinosaurs' feet in the decade that has followed.
When asked about the logistics--what will actually happen on the ground in Texas if this bill passes and, as expected, we get a pro-equality SCOTUS ruling--Paxton, of course, wanted to avoid hypotheticals. Hypotheticals are hard!
I think it's really difficult--first of all, we don't know that's gonna happen, second of all, we don't know exactly how that opinion is going to be written. So, you know, that opinion can be written, you know, numerous ways, hundreds of different ways, so it's really difficult to speculate about what happens in relation to a particular law. In addition, we don't know what exactly the legislature is gonna pass. We don't know if it's gonna pass, and we don't know whether there are gonna be amendments or changes to it. So to try to match up two things, one that hasn't passed, and obviously the Supreme Court hasn't ruled, it's difficult to decide any determination about how that's gonna work together.
Delicious word salad, no? Especially that last sentence, wow that's a doozy!
If saying what is going to happen in the event of the bill's passage and a marriage-affirming SCOUTUS ruling was difficult for poor Paxton, saying whether or not the Texas state government is going to follow the law of the land in the event of a SCOTUS ruling was even tougher. Camerota asked Paxton:
But, I mean, Texas would have to conform to the federal law, yes?
What did she get? This...whatever the fuck this
is supposed to mean:
Well, I mean, if- if the Supreme Court is- is- is- is making the ruling on marriage, you know, we- we- we deal with that all the time.
Camerota nailed it:
Followed by a long, awkward five-second pause, before Camerota interjected:
Meaning that Texas would have to conform to the Supreme Court?
Another pause, and again, hypotheticals are hard!
Again, we would have to see how it worked. We would have to see exactly how that opinion is written versus how this law is passed. Like I said, I don't know how the legislature or if the legislature is gonna pass this law, I don't know in what form, and I don't know what the opinion of the Supreme Court is gonna be, and I don't know how those two will fit together or whether they're gonna be in somehow direct opposition, there's literally no way to know.
Translated: I am a mean-spirited, anti-gay asshole, and we will probably do everything we can to gum up the works of marriage equality.
Apparently not exasperated by Captain Obvious spitting word salad about not being able to predict the future, Camerota then posed this question to Paxton:
Isn't it discriminatory? Aren't you saying that gays and lesbians in your state are not as valued as heterosexuals because they can't form into a union?
Again, same old bullshit:
No, I think what the legislature is trying to do...[is] define marriage the way it's been defined since the beginning of this country and since the beginning of the formation of Texas.
Paxton's lack of compassion and empathy really
shines through, however, when Camerota asks him:
And what about homosexuals who fall in love? What should they do?
Well, I mean, they have, you know, they can do whatever they want, but the reality is, marriage itself, right now in Texas, was defined by the people of Texas, as I said, overwhelmingly, as between a man and a woman.
Camerota--again, to her credit--does not quite let him off the hook:
I mean, they can't do whatever they want, as you've just said. I mean, even in the language of this, it says the state may not issue, enforce, or recognize a marriage license or a declaration of an informal marriage for a union other between a union between a man and a woman. I mean, do you understand why gays in Texas would feel that that is discriminating against them?
Paxton, again, does not give a shit, unsurprisingly:
Well, they can feel how they want, the reality is the voters of Texas have passed the law as it is.
No, Ken Paxton, this
is the reality: Marriage equality is coming your way, whether you like it or not. And you can either accept it or you can go down kicking and screaming. I think we know how it's likely to happen at this point.
So now, all eyes are on the Texas House to see if this monstrosity passes. They have until midnight on Thursday to pass the bill. The San Antonio Express-News put it really well in their editorial (which is well worth reading in full) on HB 4105:
“The intent is to assert the sovereign rights of Texas and of the citizens of Texas,” Bell said of his bill. “I believe it is a bipartisan issue — our social rights and our traditional values.”
Social rights. Traditional values. Sovereign rights. These words could have come from any anti-civil rights playbook of the 1960s. In any case, Bell should recognize that the plural personal pronoun, our, means all of us.
Bell’s bill was voted out of the House State Affairs Committee, 7-3, on April 22. It should go no farther if, this time, Texas wants to be on the right side of history — and justice.
State government has no business telling Texans who they can love and marry.