Gay marriage (a.k.a. Same-sex marriage [SSM]) in Texas
Part 6: 2015-MAY to JUL:
Legislature debates anti-same-sex marriage bills.
The U.S. Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals instructs
federal judges in Louisiana, Mississippi & Texas
to issue final SSM rulings by JUL-17, making gay
marriage available in their states.
On this web site, the acronym SSM refers to same-sex marriage. "LGBT"
refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual community.
2015-MAY-12: A bill sponsored by State Senator Craig Estes (R) was approved by the Texas Senate:
Bill SB 2065 , if passed into law, would give clergy the religious freedom to discriminate against same-sex couples who are seeking to marry or obtain any other service. He said:
"We want to make sure they are not ever coerced into performing a marriage ceremony that would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs." 1
The bill's goal may be to raise fear of, and anger towards, the federal government in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage in Texas. Many commentators expect that marriage equality will be forced on Texas by the high court when the Justices issue their ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case in late June or early July.
On the other hand, it may be to increase public support for the state Republican Party whose state representatives and senators are all expected to vote in favor of this useless bill.
The bill serves no valid purpose because:
- The Texas Constitution already contains a clause that guarantees the separation of church and state.
- The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution also has a separation of church and state clause.
Priests, ministers, and pastors have been refusing to marry couples for a broad range of reasons for centuries with impunity. They have rejected black couples, couples where one partner is of a different denomination or religion, interfaith couples, interracial couples, couples that were judged to be insufficiently mature, etc. To our knowledge, no member of the clergy has ever been charged with a crime for refusing to marry a couple for any reason.
The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 21 to 10. Senator Estes said:
"I appreciate Lt. Governor Patrick for making this issue a priority. SB 2065 is moving quickly through the legislative process. It is my firm belief that this legislation is needed to protect religious freedom in this matter. I look forward to working throughout the remaining weeks of session to ensure that it is signed into law by Governor Abbott. ... I am confident that the House will pass this bill. It has received overwhelming support from pastors across the state, and I believe it is important that we clearly state our policy on this matter as a Legislature." 2
2015-JUN-26: In an unrelated case, U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the entire country.
On the morning of JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. This is a consolidated case involving gay marriage lawsuits from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee. In each case, U.S. District Courts had legalized gay marriages in the state. However, when the cases were consolidated and appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit of Appeals, a three-judge panel of that court overturned the lower court rulings by a vote of 2 to 1.
That decision created a "circuit split" in which the 6th Circuit Court upheld bans on gay marriages even though the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuit Courts had previously found similar bans in other states to be unconstitutional.
In order to harmonize laws across the country, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted the appeal of the consolidated case, held hearings on 2015-APR-28, and issued its ruling on JUN-26. Their decision legalized SSM across the entire country, including all 50 states, 5 territories, and the District of Columbia. This decision requires each of these 56 jurisdictions to marry qualified same-sex couples and to recognize legal gay marriages that have been solemnized out-of-state.
The ruling will not be effective for at least 25 days until JUL-21. This is because the High Court generally gives the losing side time to issue a request that the Court reconsider their ruling. Whether any of the defendants from the four states will decide to exercise their right to do this is unknown. However, with widespread animus against the LGBT community and opposition to gay marriage in these four states, it is quite possible that at least one defendant will ask for a review. They might not be able to reverse the process towards marriage equality, but they could slow it down a bit.
This ruling had little or no effect on the status of gay marriages in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and the Territory of Guam where marriage equality had already been attained. It will have a major effect in Texas, the other 12 states that ban gay marriage and in the state of Missouri which only permits gay marriages in the City of St. Louis and two counties.
Same-sex couples who live in in some of the states and territories with bans in place were not able to obtain their marriage licenses immediately and marry. This is because:
- U.S. Supreme Court rulings generally do not become effective for a few weeks after being issued. As noted above, this allows the losing side to decide whether to request that the High Court review its decision.
- There are many dozens of lawsuits throughout the country involving gay marriage that had been decided by U.S. District Courts, but whose rulings had been stayed pending appeals to U.S. Circuit Courts. These stays would have to be removed, and some final jurisdictional procedures completed before all the impediments for marriage equality are removed.
Map of south-central United States, showing the
jurisdication of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal.
2015-JUL-01: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court reacts to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling:
As shown above in gray, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over three states: Louisiana, Mississippi & Texas. The other ten Circuit Courts handle the remaining 47 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had accepted for review gay marriage cases from all three states. In the case of Texas, a District Court judge had found the state's ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional. This agreed with the decisions by many dozens of state courts and other U.S. District Courts which had also found that the gay marriage bans violated the Due Process and/or Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
The Administrations in all three states agreed that, under the circumstances, the 5th Circuit Court should implement the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court by issuing an order instructing the various District Courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to issue orders legalizing same-sex marriage within their state.
On JUL-01, Circuit Judge Jerry Smith of the 5th Circuit issued three orders -- one each to federal district judges in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. It instructed them to issue their final rulings on or before JUL-17 to legalize gay marriage in their states. Gay marriage should come to Texas later in July.
More news is expected in the future.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Wade Goodwyn, "Texas Sen. Doesn't Want Clergy 'Coerced' Into Officiating Same-Sex Marriages," National Public Radio, 2015-MAY-12, at: http://www.npr.org/
- Senator Craig Estes, "Texas Senate Passes Religious Freedom Bill," Devon County Republican Party, 2015-MAT, at: http://dentongop.org/
Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally published: 2015-MAY-13
Last updated 2015-JUL-02
Author: Bruce A Robinson