State or local government employees giving out same-sex marriage licenses would stop receiving their salaries under a bill filed Wednesday for the 84th legislative session.
Titled the “Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act,” House Bill 623 would prevent same-sex marriage from becoming legal in Texas. In 2005, voters backed a proposition defining marriage in the Texas Constitution as “solely the union of one man and one woman.” A San Antonio federal judge last year found the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional but immediately issued a stay on his ruling. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case on Friday.
State Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, said he filed HB 623 to prevent any federal court or federal action from allowing gay marriage in Texas.
"The federal government is trying to act to create moral standards, and that's just not acceptable," Bell said.
His bill says taxes or public funds can’t be used to issue same-sex marriage licenses or be used to enforce a court order to recognize same-sex marriage.
The bill also requires state courts to dismiss legal actions that challenge a provision of the bill and award legal costs and attorney fees to the defendants. Citing the 11th Amendment, which gives states sovereign immunity, the bill also says the state isn’t subject to a lawsuit for complying with the act — regardless of a contradictory federal ruling.
"It is my belief and expectation that our courts should not be tied up in that matter," Bell said.
Daniel Williams, a legislative specialist for the gay rights group Equality Texas, said the bill would go against legal precedent.
“This bill is retreading very well-established precedent here. In 1869, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Texas v. White that no, Texas does may not ignore federal law whenever it wants,” Williams said. “Beyond it ignoring federal law, it would actually punish state employees who follow the law.”
Appellate courts across the country have rejected gay marriage bans in several states across the country. Texas is now one of 14 states that do not allow marriages between couples of the same sex.
Other lawmakers have filed bills to recognize same-sex marriage in Texas, allow same-sex parents to put both of their names on their child’s birth certificate and prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.