Texas would be barred from recognizing civil unions or marriages between gay couples under legislation given preliminary approval Monday. "The bottom-line purpose of the bill is to try to defend and shore up the institution of marriage, which is the fundamental basis on which this society is built, and it's been under significant attack over the past couple of decades in particular," said state senator Jeff Wentworth, who sponsored the bill.
Sen. John Whitmire criticized the bill, saying he doesn't believe it is necessary because the state does not allow marriages between members of the same sex. "Some people would say this is just mean-spirited," Whitmire said, adding that he believes the legislation is being used to make a political statement.
Randall Ellis, executive director of the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, said the bill's tentative approval serves as a reminder that lesbians and gays are treated as second-class citizens. "This does nothing to improve the lives of Texans," Ellis said. "It is simply a slap in the face to gays and lesbians."
The bill follows a Beaumont state district judge's recent dismissal of a divorce request filed by two men who obtained a civil union in Vermont last year and were attempting to have it dissolved in Texas. State district judge Tom Mulvaney granted the divorce decree last month, but Texas attorney general Greg Abbott intervened and said the court could not grant a divorce where no marriage existed. Mulvaney then set his order aside.
The bill must get final approval before it is sent to the house.