Same-sex couples in Texas may soon have trouble tying the knot — and not due to cold feet.
A new bill, which won preliminary approval Tuesday in the Texas Senate, would allow county clerks and judges to deny these couples marriage licenses — if these public officials claim that issuing the licenses goes against their religious beliefs.
The Senate voted 21-10 in support of the bill, with unaminous Republican support and only one Democrat in favor — a striking partisan divide. If approved in a vote Wednesday, it will go to the House of Representatives.
"If we don't do this, we are discriminating against people of faith," said Sen. Brian Birdwell, the legislation's sponsor.
However, critics say that this support of "religious freedom" is really a "license to discriminate" against LGBT people.
"This bill opens the door to taxpayer-funded discrimination against virtually anyone who doesn't meet a public official's personal moral standards," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network.
The bill has a far greater chance of becoming law than recently proposed antigay legislation in North Carolina, which aims to have same-sex marriage declared "null and void" in the state. That bill, which made headlines in the wake of House Bill 2's repeal, is sponsored by four of the House’s most conservative Republican members in a state led by a Democratic governor.
Texas, however, has a Republican governor, Greg Abbott, who would likely sign his state's antigay bill into law. Last year Abbott lobbied to deny partner benefits to married same-sex couples.
If passed, the law would almost certainly be challenged in courts, as it undermines Obergefell v. Hodges. The landmark Supreme Court decision declared that same-sex couples have a legal right to wed under the U.S. Constitution.
Previously, four couples sued and won a lawsuit against Kim Davis, a county clerk who, in the name of God, infamously shut down marriage license operations in Rowan County, Ky., rather than issue licenses to same-sex couples.