A bill that was seen as a preemptive strike during Supreme Court deliberations over same-sex marriage died in the Texas legislature early Friday.
The bill would have barred local officials from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples and would have withheld state and local funds for such a purpose. While experts say it may not have withstood a legal challenge, its supporters say it would have sent a message to the Supreme Court and potentially delayed same-sex marriage in the courts.
The bill would have had to pass the House by the end of the day Thursday to remain in play for the legislative session, which ends June 1. The majority of the chamber’s members had signed on as co-authors, assuring its passage had it reached the floor. But it failed to come up for a vote after opponents of the measure mounted delay tactics that ran out the clock.
The Supreme Court is slated next month to decide whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marriage or if it should be up to individual states to decide.
Gay rights groups hailed the bill’s demise, but warned that the challenges to gay rights and same-sex marriage continue.
“Thanks to the leadership of our allies in the Texas House, the clock ran out” on the bill, Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, said in a statement, noting that other bills viewed as anti-gay remain in play this session. “We must continue to fight their efforts to defy the Supreme Court and to deny equality to LGBT Texans – through the end of the legislative session and beyond.”
Rep. Cecil Bell (R), the main sponsor of the bill, called it a defeat for the right of states to govern matters relating to marriage as they traditionally have done. He said he would try to revive it before the legislature adjourns by attaching it to another bill .
“As long as there is session left I intend to stand up for a sovereign Texas,” he said.
Supporters and critics of the Texas bill had called it the front edge of an emerging strategy on the part of same-sex marriage foes, who pledged to employ whatever means they have to hold up same-sex marriage even if it is technically legal.
Social conservatives compared the strategy behind this bill to the successful effort to curb access to abortion by enacting legislation aimed at shuttering clinics, imposing waiting periods and restricting the technologies used in abortion procedures.
A similar bill is under consideration in South Carolina.