Texas house approves constitutional ban on same-sex marriage

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April 26 2005 11:00 PM ET

Texas house
members who approved a constitutional amendment banning
same-sex marriage got a cool reception from one
constituent--10-year-old Kimberly Norman. "I don't think
that they're opening their eyes to look at the world to see
everything," said the fifth-grader, who is being raised by
two women she each calls Mom, on Monday at the Texas state
capitol in Austin.
The measure aims to stem possible court challenges to
an existing Texas law making same-sex marriage illegal. It
passed with a vote of 101-29, more than the 100 needed for
approval of a constitutional amendment in the house. "I
think marriage is important enough to the people of this
state that it deserves the highest level of protection,"
said Republican representative Warren Chisum, who sponsored
the bill.
The measure still must win approval in the senate and
from Texas voters to become part of the state constitution.
Chisum said no senator has agreed to sponsor the bill in the
upper chamber. The few Democrats who opposed the measure
said it would constitutionalize discrimination. "This
amendment is blowing smoke to fuel the hellfire flames of
bigotry," said Rep. Senfronia Thompson. The debate comes
less than a week after house members approved a measure that
would bar same-sex couples from becoming foster parents.
Gay and lesbian rights advocates criticized both
measures, saying the legislature needs to prioritize
building up Texas families with public education and social
services rather than discriminating against the state's
43,000 gay couples. "What they're doing really flies in face
of family values," said Heath Riddles, Lesbian/Gay Rights
Lobby of Texas spokesman. The marriage ban, Riddles said,
would also hurt unmarried heterosexual couples, making it
difficult for them to enter into end-of-life contractual
agreements or give a partner power of attorney. Chisum added
a measure he said is meant to give gay and straight Texans
the same contractual rights they currently have. It allows
private contracts for guardianship, hospital visitation
rights, insurance benefits, and property ownership.
But Karen Langsley and her partner, Jill Wilcox, who
are raising Kimberly and her 12-year-old brother, Zach
Norman, said they were disgusted with legislators who
approved the ban. "They put down who we are as individuals,
as humans, who ought to be protected by the constitution
that applies to every citizen," Langsley said.
To become law, the ban must next be approved by 21 of
31 senators. If approved by the legislature, a majority of
Texas voters must then approve it on November 8. If the
amendment is approved by voters, Texas would join 17 states
that constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. (AP)

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