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Texas house
approves constitutional ban on same-sex marriage

Texas house
approves constitutional ban on same-sex marriage

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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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