Pro and anti-LGBT bills await opening of Texas Legislature

The 84th session of the Texas Legislature opens on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 (Photo: State Preservation Board)

The 84th Texas Legislature opens its 140-day work session today with a Republican majority: Twenty Republicans and 11 Democrats in the Senate, and 97 Republicans and 52 Democrats in the House.

There are bills filed to further restrict abortion rights, to terminate in-state tuition for children of immigrants, to outlaw sanctuary cities and to increase border security. More than a dozen bills address the carrying of guns in public places.

LGBT Texans have not been forgotten. Allies in the legislature have submitted bills to eliminate the state’s marriage ban and to allow both parents names on the birth certificates of children adopted by same sex couples.

Another bill extends the use of the “Romeo and Juliet” defense, which protects teenage couples under the age of 17 from prosecution when they engage in consensual sex, to same-sex couples.

There are also anti-LGBT bills. One bill allows “religious” business owners to deny service and employment to LGBT citizens. Another bill hopes to gut any future marriage equality laws by eliminating funding for the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Following is a list of legislation submitted to the Senate and House that may affect LGBT voters.

House Bill 130
State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas
Relating to authorizing a marriage between two persons of the same sex in this state and repealing the statutory prohibition against the recognition of a civil union or similar relationship entered into in another state between two persons of the same sex.

House Joint Resolution 34
State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston
Proposing a constitutional amendment to repeal the constitutional provision providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

House Bill 537
State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas
Relating to the information on the supplementary birth certificate of an adopted child. (The supplementary birth certificate of an adopted child must be in the names of both adoptive parents, including same-sex couples.)

House Bill 71
Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint
Relating to the prosecution of the offense of indecency with a child. (This bill would amend Section 21.11 of the Penal Code to remove gender restrictions from the “Romeo and Juliet” defense that protects teenage couples under the age of 17 from prosecution when they engage in consensual sexual activity. Previously, this defense was allowed only for opposite sex couples.)

Senate Bill 98
State Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Jose Rodriguez, D-El-Paso
An act relating to authorizing a marriage between two persons of the same sex in this state and repealing the statutory prohibition against the recognition of a civil union or similar relationship entered into in another state between two persons of the same sex.

House Bill 623
State Rep. Cecil Bell Jr, R-Magnolia
Relating to the funding, issuing, and litigation of certain marriage licenses. (The bill would forbid the use of state and local taxpayer funds to support the licensing of same-sex marriage. It would additionally forbid state and local government employees from issuing licenses under the threat of losing their salaries and pensions.)

House Joint Resolution 55
Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas
Proposing a constitutional amendment relating to a person’s free exercise of religion. (Almost identical to Sen. Campbell’s bill. See below.)

Senate Joint Resolution 10
State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels
Proposing a constitutional amendment relating to an individual’s or religious organization’s freedom of religion. (This legislation would make it legal for Texas businesses to fire LGBT employees and turn away LGBT customers if their religious beliefs compel them to do so.)

Update: As this article went to press the Texas Observer was reporting: “Four Republican lawmakers from the Plano area plan to introduce legislation that would bar cities and counties from adopting ordinances prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people.”

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