Texas has a reputation for doing things big, and that was certainly the case at the statehouse in Austin on Monday, when a Senate committee hearing was dominated by hate-filled testimony against same sex marriage, gays, lesbians, and their supporters.
Their ire was aimed at opponents of a bill designed to protect clergy and churches from being forced to participate in same-sex weddings, should the Supreme Court overturn Texas and other states' bans on marriage equality, according to Towleroad.
SB 2065 was filed one week ago, well past the filing deadline, The Texas Tribune reports, but the Senate voted to suspend its rules to introduce the legislation. Democrats had delayed the bill's hearing, requesting more time to study the legislation, until yesterday. The controversial bill prompted Democratic State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio to issue a statement last week, comparing the legislation to the controversial Indiana religious freedom law that drew national attention this year.
"The lack of transparency and notice to the public is shocking," said Martinez Fischer. "Whatever rules the Senate suspended to bring this up, they should suspend again to bring it down. I am objecting, and I ask that all Texans and businesses who support equality to stand up and fight now."
He was clearly in the minority, however, as the Senate committee advanced the bill in a 5-1 vote that followed dramatic testimony. Dozens of pastors showed up in support of the bill, with some comparing same-sex marriage to adultery, domestic abuse, pedophilia, polygamy and more.
Other witnesses took to the floor to denounce gay couples in other states and accuse them of "bullying," "bigotry" and "hate crimes" for allegedly trying to force pastors to perform their weddings. Beverly Roberts, who is the area director of Concerned Women for America, said she and other supporters of "traditional marriage" were the victims of gay activists.
"Should we not consider these to be hate crimes?" Roberts testified. "Are these not instances of targeted bigotry? Are these couples not engaging in the same bullying tactics they profess to deplore? Why are they attacking a minister when they don't even need him to perform their marriage? So again I ask you, who are the bullies, the bigots and the haters?"
Other speakers saw marriage equality as a harbinger of bestiality. "Where are we going to stop with this?" said Bruce Engleman, pastor of the Baptist Temple in Fort Worth. "Let's just get to the chase. Where's it going to stop? I heard of a woman in Florida that married a dog. Am I going to have to perform a wedding ceremony for an animal and a human being? And how can we say, 'Well, we have to marry certain people against our convictions,' and then tell a Mormon who's a fundamental [sic] Mormon, 'Well, we can't marry you because you want to marry two women'? Where is this going to stop? We see as evangelical Christians all over America, our rights are begin stripped every day, and nobody's standing up for our rights, except for a few of you senators, and I appreciate that."
David Joiner, pastor of LifeSprings Church, told legislators same-sex marriage cannot be considered a true marriage because it violates natural law, turns a moral wrong into a civil right, and offends God. But lest anyone misconstrue his belief as antigay, Joiner proclaimed to those assembled, "I'm not a homophobia [sic]."
"Over the years I believe we've heard of people that want and tried to pass pedophilia," Joiner said. "That's what's in their heart. They bring it up because that's where they lean toward. Just think if it passed one day, and they said, 'Well, you have to marry this 16-year-old boy to this guy' or whatever. We need to take a stand because the moral -- they're trying to get it to the gay, we know that, but like I said we preach about love, and nobody would want that for their child for the most part, so we don't want to see a stepping stone for them to get this to pass and then to move on to stuff like that."
On the other side of the issue are pro-LGBT groups including Equality Texas and the ACLU of Texas, who have said that as long as the bill is crafted narrowly enough, they'd be wiling to support it.
Chuck Smith of Equality Texas asked lawmakers to consider an amendment to make it clear that the bill only applies to marriage ceremonies and ensure that the legislation would not prohibit the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses by officials in a secular context.
However, at the conclusion of Monday's hearing, the author of the Senate version of the bill, State Sen. Craig Estes (R) of Wichita Falls, rejected that amendment.
The bill now goes to the full Senate. An identical bill was approved by a House committee last week.
WATCH testimony by Bruce Engleman of the Baptist Temple in Fort Worth:
WATCH testimony by David Joiner of the Baptist Temple in Fort Worth:
WATCH testimony by Beverly Roberts of Concerned Women for America: