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Texans to decide
same-sex marriage ban on November 8

Texans to decide
same-sex marriage ban on November 8

A proposed Texas constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage pits conservatives against gay rights activists in an increasingly contentious campaign. Voters on November 8 will decide whether the state's constitution should define marriage as the union of only a man and a woman. It's the latest vote in a years-long battle over the definition of marriage. Approving the amendment limits any judge from ever allowing same-sex marriage in the state, say proponents of the amendment, known as Proposition 2. "Marriage is the foundational structure of society," said Kelly Shackelford, a leader of Texans for Marriage. Opponents say they can defeat the measure, however. "We are making a horse race out of it for the first time in any state," said Glen Maxey, a gay former legislator directing the opposition group No Nonsense in November. "I believe there's a shot to win it." Proposition 2 represents the highest-profile item on the statewide ballot, coming in a year when there's no national election to frame the debate and to drive more voters to the polls. Eighteen states have approved constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. A constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would not stop homosexual relationships but would show the value Texas places on heterosexual marriage, Shackelford said. "People do whatever they want," he said. "It's just the state is recognizing there is a relationship [traditional marriage] that is special. If you redefine it, you actually destroy it." Opponents call the amendment unnecessary since state law does not recognize same-sex marriage. They label the amendment a poorly drafted statement of discrimination that could even interfere with the legality of traditional marriage. Opponents point to the language of the proposed amendment prohibiting the state from "creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage." A judge, opponents say, could interpret the wording to invalidate traditional or common-law marriage between a man and a woman. Texas attorney general Greg Abbott issued an opinion Thursday saying that argument "is wholly without merit." Rep. Warren Chisum, a Pampa Republican who sponsored the measure, said great care went into writing the proposal and that opponents are merely relying on scare tactics. "I think they're a little bit desperate," Chisum said. Republican governor Rick Perry supports the measure and even did a ceremonial signing of the proposed amendment at a church school, though his signature wasn't required. "It's pretty simple for me.... I'm a Christian, and this is about values," Perry said at an appearance last week in Fort Worth. "My beliefs are that a man and woman are what make up the meaning of marriage." The state ballot includes eight other propositions. If turnout is low, typical for constitutional amendment elections, it could help Prop 2 opponents if they get their voters to the polls. Travis County, home to Austin and more liberal voters, is viewed as the opponents' stronghold. Supporters of Prop 2 want a larger-than-usual turnout statewide because Texas as a whole is conservative. Charlotte Flynn, 86, a coordinator with Gray Panthers, a senior citizens group that opposes the marriage ban, said she and her husband don't want their marriage jeopardized by the faulty wording of the amendment. And they don't want discrimination against gays. "I am a Christian, and my belief is God loves everybody on this earth," she said. Ministers are lining up on both sides. Texans for Marriage touts pastors from across Texas who endorse the proposition. The group's Web site includes a videotaped speech from Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor's Council. He cites biblical reasons to support the amendment and to honor "the marriage bed." Some clergy members oppose the amendment. A telephone recording put out by opponents included the voice of the Reverend Thomas Heger, a Presbyterian minister in San Antonio who urged a vote against the proposition. Prop 2 supporters called the phone messages misleading and criticized the opponents' use of the phrase "God bless you" to end their calls. Shackelford said it seemed to be an effort to confuse people to keep them from voting. Maxey rejects the idea that clergy members can be on only one side. "Why do they think a minister or a person of faith doesn't have the ability to think that discrimination is wrong?" he said. No matter what happens Election Day, Chisum said he'll be satisfied the people of Texas have their say. "Whatever it is," he said, "we can live with that." (AP)

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