Even though gay marriage is law of the land, Texas legislators have introduced a bill that would excuse judges and other elected officials from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples for religious reasons.
The bill, which was introduced on Tuesday, has already seen preliminary approval in the Senate by a vote of 21-10. Republicans unanimously supported the measure, and if the bill passes a Wednesday vote, it will be sent over to the House.
The response may seem abrupt and out-of-place, but Texas’s Legislature meets once every two years: meaning that this is the first opportunity for the legislative body to fire back at the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling making gay marriage legal throughout the nation.
“If we don’t do this, we are discriminating against people of faith,” Sen. Brian Birdwell (R), the bill’s sponsor, said according to U.S. News.
The bill is a complicated one, too. Instead of granting a marriage certificate, a judge or official objecting to a same-sex marriage under religious freedom will step aside so that an official who does not object can issue the marriage certificate. The process theoretically still allows gay couples to marry, albeit under strain and embarrassment.
North Carolina also introduced a bill yesterday to ban gay marriage ceremonies and prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.
But why are these states challenging a Supreme Court ruling outlawing gay marriage bans? Republicans may feel emboldened by President Donald Trump’s new Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch. Previously, Gorsuch argued in favor of Hobby Lobby in the Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius ruling, defending religious objections for denying contraceptives to employees. Gorsuch may be open to other “religious freedom” rulings, prompting state Republicans to push the limits of Hobby Lobby under religious objections.
But it seems unlikely that the Texas bill will stay law for long if it passes at all. There’s already a legal precedent against religious freedom laws being struck down if they target gay marriage.
“The Texas Senate today said it has no problem with public officials picking and choosing which taxpayers they will serve,” Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller said, U.S. News reports. “This bill opens the door to taxpayer-funded discrimination against virtually anyone who doesn’t meet a public official’s personal moral standards.”
H/T U.S. News