UPDATE, 10 a.m., May 28: State Sen. Eddie Lucio, R-Brownsville, announced Wednesday night that he was withdrawing from Senate consideration the bill he had revised to include language barring state and local officials from providing or recognizing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Earlier in the day, state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, passed up a final chance to amend onto an agency sunset bill a measure allowing child welfare service providers that contract with the state to use religion to discriminate in matters involving foster care, adoption and other placement services. The failure of both measures is a major victory for supporters of equality in Texas.
Lawmakers filed more than 20 bills promoting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Texans this year. Just one or two remain alive after some drama at the state Capitol Tuesday night. But we can’t stop fighting yet.
Midnight Tuesday was the deadline for the Texas House to pass Senate bills on second reading. As the deadline neared, we prepared for a battle over shameful legislation allowing child welfare agencies that contract with the state to use religion to discriminate. The sponsor of that measure, state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, had already tried to pass other anti-LGBT legislation. Now he wanted to discriminate against qualified LGBT families that could provide stable, loving homes for children who had been abused and neglected.
But the Texas Freedom Network and our fantastic partners — Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas and the Human Rights Campaign — lobbied hard against Sanford’s plan to amend his discrimination measure onto a bill (SB 206) reauthorizing the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). We alerted the news media and urged activists to contact legislators in opposition. And our work paid off when Sanford’s amendment was persuaded not to bring his amendment to a vote in the House.
But very quickly afterward, the fight shifted to the Senate on the other side of the Capitol. In a sneak attack on equality after 11 p.m., state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, tried to add Sanford’s discrimination amendment to another bill dealing with DFPS. TFN and our partners had already prepared our Senate friends for that possibility — so they were ready.
State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, took the lead in opposition, directly challenging the bill’s author and Sen. Campbell. He then used his knowledge of Senate rules to raise an objection that forced Campbell to withdraw her amendment, effectively killing it in that chamber.
We’re relieved, but the fight isn’t over. We’ll be watching for any effort by Sanford to revive his discrimination amendment in the House today.
In addition, the Texas Senate could take up — as soon as today — legislation that would bar state and local officials from licensing, enforcing or recognizing marriage licenses for same-sex couples even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples.
Since this outrageous legislation could be heard in the Senate at any minute, it’s important that Texans call their state senators NOW in opposition. Look up your senator’s number here and him or her them to vote against HB 2977 unless the anti-LGBT language is stripped from the bill.
Let’s make sure that when this difficult legislative session ends on Monday, supporters of equality have defeated discrimination at every turn.