They say you shouldn’t mess with Texas — and that applies to religious leaders taking a stand for equal rights in the famously conservative Lone Star State. The Texas Freedom Network sponsored a Tuesday rally that drew 150 LGBT-affirming faith leaders from various religious backgrounds to the state capitol.
On the same day, a Travis County judge found that Texas’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. However, that ruling did not lead to the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as a federal case on the issue of marriage equality is still working its way through the legal system. (Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, a marriage equality supporter, praised Herman’s ruling but was waiting for advice from county lawyers as to whether she could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. “I am scrambling, trying to find out if there is anything I can do,” she told the Austin American-Statesman. “Right now, I think it’s no, but we are checking.”)
In the federal case, a U.S. District judge issued a favorable ruling for same-sex couples, but his ruling is on hold while the state appeals. For now, Texas remains one of 13 states without full marriage equality.
The religious leaders who rallied at the capitol were largely “united,” the Associated Press reports in their opposition to anti-LGBT legislation introduced by Rep. Cecil Bell. Through the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act, Bell seeks to block government issuance and recognition of marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The bill would even deny county clerks their salary and benefits if they issue marriage licenses to such couples.
The participants were also backing legislation to repeal the state’s marriage ban and expand its antidiscrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I recognize, as a happily married straight man, that I am afforded legal and social protections that our LGBT members are still not allowed in many cases,” the Rev. Eric Folkerth of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas told the crowd at the rally, The Texas Tribune reports. “The idea that any of them would be discriminated against by state or local law is absolutely unacceptable.”
“I think that we have heard a lot from the faith community, but we have only heard one side of the faith community,” said another participant, the Rev. Leslie Jackson of the United Church of Christ in Houston, according to the Tribune. “There are Christians in this state that do support equality, but they are hearing from this other, dominant voice. There is another view that needs to be heard.”
The marriage ban’s fate will most likely be decided in court. There have been more than 60 victories for marriage equality in state and federal courts since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, with only a handful of anti-equality rulings. The Supreme Court will hear a marriage equality case this spring, with its ruling poised to decide the fate of marriage rights nationwide.