Traditional marriage still a target in Texas

Bills in state House & Senate face slim chance of overturning Texas marriage amendment, conservative group says

AUSTIN—State legislators in the House and Senate are trying to amend the Texas Constitution to legalize gay marriage, a move that would repeal the state constitutional amendment passed in 2005 defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

But the leader of Austin-based Texas Values said the effort has little chance of succeeding and is an attempt to grab media attention.

“These bills that are an effort of the homosexual lobby to repeal our constitutional amendment have no chance of passing,” Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, told the TEXAN. “And talk of repeal of the definition of marriage as it stands is really just for headlines and not reality. It’s obvious that the homosexual lobby is engaging in a desperate effort to create the illusion that they have support for these matters and measures when they don’t.”

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has filed a resolution that would repeal the marriage amendment in each legislative session since 2005, but this is the first time a companion bill has been filed in the Senate. Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, co-sponsored Coleman’s resolution in the House, and Sen. Jose Rodriquez, D-El Paso, filed the Senate bill.

If passed and signed by Gov. Rick Perry, a defender of traditional marriage, the resolutions would put the repeal before voters.

Also, separate legislation filed by Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, would remove gay marriage restrictions from state law if the marriage amendment were overturned.

While support for traditional marriage in Texas is high, a 2012 poll by the Texas Tribune and the University of Texas found that backing for gay marriage may have increased since 2005, when three-quarters of voters approved the constitutional amendment. The poll found that 36 percent of voters believe same-sex couples should be able to marry and 33 percent believe they should have rights to civil unions. Twenty-five percent say same-sex couples should not have the right to marry or form civil unions.

“The time has come to put Texas in the mainstream of American values,” Rodriquez said in a statement, according to the Texas Tribune. “The simple fact is that the government should not stand in the way of people who want to enjoy the legal rights and privileges of marriage that the rest of us enjoy.”

Bob Stith, former SBC national strategist for gender issues, told the TEXAN this effort is part of a persistent campaign by homosexual activists to wear down resistance by framing gay marriage as a civil rights issue. But Christians must view homosexuality as a moral issue, he said.

“We really have to be convinced that anything less than heterosexual marriage is less than God’s design and God’s intent,” Stith, who lives in Southlake, told Texan Digital. “And if that is true, then we should want everyone to have the very best that God has for them. Whether they understand that or not, that still is our message—God has something much better for you.”

As they oppose legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, believers must never water down the Bible’s standards in order to appear tolerant, Stith said. He added that Christians must learn the whole counsel of the Bible on marriage and homosexuality in order to counter gay theological arguments.

“Scripture is very clear on this, but we’ve got to get a lot more literate in understanding that [the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality] is something more than a few verses from Leviticus,” he said.

Terry Turner, SBTC president and pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite, said that “anyone who believes in traditional marriage between a man and a woman should really be offended at the thought that … the holy institution that God has put together would be degraded to the point of allowing a man and a man or a woman and a woman to become united.”

That offense should drive Christians to take a stand for righteousness, Turner said.

“Too often we’ve allowed our society to move in a direction that is immoral, and we just kind of watched it happen,” he added. “And if we’re not careful, we’re going to be consumed with those immoral actions within the very fiber of our society.”

Despite a wave of publicity surrounding the attempt to repeal the state marriage amendment, Saenz said that in order for it to pass the House, all Democrats and 55 Republicans would have to support it—a virtual impossibility, he said.

On the other hand, legislation defending traditional marriage is likely to pass this legislative session, Saenz said. He pointed to a bill filed by Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) that would eliminate healthcare funding for any school district that offers insurance or other benefits to a person that is not a district employee, their spouse or child.

More than 25 House members signed onto the bill at its filing, according to a press release by Springer, indicating general support.

“Making homosexual marriage legal in the state of Texas is not a winning issue,” Saenz said. “I don’t even know if it’s a winning issue for Democrats. It’s certainly not a winning issue for Republicans.”

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