Marriage equality: here’s hoping Texas Democrats’ hearts have softened [UPDATED]

As SCOTUS hears arguments on marriage equality this week, it reminds me of when the Texas Legislature voted for the state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage in Texas eight years ago. Texas voters subsequently approved the measure that November by a 3-to-1 margin. I wonder if any of the legislators voting on that piece of crap would vote differently today?

equalityI am particularly reminded of the Democrats who voted yes (or Present, Not Voting). Some of the statements of vote (scroll to the bottom) are surprising and disappointing, including those made by various House Democrats, two of whom are now in the US Congress and several of whom remain in the legislature or otherwise in the public eye. (and one of whom was, ironically, drummed out of office, in part for gay baiting her opponent).

Keep in mind that a vote yes was a vote against marriage equality. A no vote was a vote against discrimination. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in each house – 21 in the Senate and 100 in the House. So, to be clear: this measure would not have passed but for the help of Democrats in the legislature.

In the Senate (in which it passed with zero votes to spare, while three Democrats voted yes):

HJR 6 was adopted by the following vote: Yeas 21, Nays 9.

Yeas: Armbrister, Averitt, Brimer, Deuell, Duncan, Eltife, Estes, Fraser, Harris, Jackson, Janek, Lindsay, Lucio, Madla, Nelson, Ogden, Seliger, Shapiro, Staples, Wentworth, Williams.

Nays: Barrientos, Ellis, Gallegos, Hinojosa, Shapleigh, Van de Putte, West, Whitmire, Zaffirini.

Absent-excused: Carona.

And in the House (in which it passed with two votes to spare, and many more Democrats than that voting yes):

The roll of those voting yea was again called and the verified vote resulted, as follows (Record 396): 101 Yeas, 29 Nays, 8 Present, not voting.

Yeas — Mr. Speaker(C); Allen, R.; Anderson; Baxter; Berman; Blake; Bohac; Bonnen; Branch; Brown, B.; Brown, F.; Callegari; Campbell; Casteel; Chisum; Cook, B.; Cook, R.; Corte; Crabb; Crownover; Davis, J.; Dawson; Delisi; Denny; Driver; Edwards; Eissler; Elkins; Escobar; Farabee; Flynn; Frost; Gattis; Geren; Gonzalez Toureilles; Goodman; Goolsby; Griggs; Grusendorf; Guillen; Haggerty; Hamilton; Hamric; Hardcastle; Harper-Brown; Hartnett; Hegar; Hilderbran; Hill; Homer; Hope; Hopson; Howard; Hughes; Hunter; Hupp; Isett; Jackson; Jones, D.; Keel; Keffer, B.; Keffer, J.; King, P.; King, T.; Kolkhorst; Krusee; Kuempel; Laney; Laubenberg; Madden; McCall; McReynolds; Merritt; Miller; Morrison; Mowery; Olivo; Orr; Otto; Paxton; Phillips; Pickett; Quintanilla; Raymond; Reyna; Riddle; Ritter; Rose; Seaman; Smith, T.; Smith, W.; Solomons; Straus; Swinford; Talton; Taylor; Truitt; Van Arsdale; West; Woolley; Zedler.

Nays — Allen, A.; Alonzo; Anchia; Bailey; Burnam; Coleman; Davis, Y.; Deshotel; Dukes; Dunnam; Dutton; Farrar; Gallego; Herrero; Hochberg; Hodge; Martinez Fischer; McClendon; Moreno, J.; Moreno, P.; Naishtat; Noriega, M.; Puente; Rodriguez; Strama; Thompson; Veasey; Villarreal; Vo.

Present, not voting — Castro; Chavez; Giddings; Gonzales; Jones, J.; Leibowitz; Turner; Wong.

Absent, Excused — Eiland; Luna; Menendez; Nixon; Oliveira; Pitts; Smithee.

Absent — Flores; Martinez; Pen ̃a; Solis; Uresti.

STATEMENTS OF VOTE

When Record No. 396 was taken, I was in the house but away from my desk. I would have voted yes.
Flores

I was shown voting present, not voting on Record No. 396. I intended to vote yes.
Leibowitz

When Record No. 396 was taken, I was in the house but away from my desk. I would have voted yes.
Martinez

I was excused on April 25, 2005 to be with my father in the hospital. Had I been present, I would have voted yes on HJRi6.
Nixon

REASONS FOR VOTE
I strongly support the institution of marriage and believe that our government should support efforts to strengthen this important bond between a man and a woman. I also believe individuals should have their rights protected when entering into civil agreements and contracts. The Chisum Amendment that was added to the bill puts into question the consideration and protection of civil unions between men and women. Since this proposed constitutional amendment now includes the prohibition of such arrangements, I could not in good conscience vote in favor of HJR 6.
Castro

My intention was to vote for HJR 6 as filed and as it was presented to the full house for consideration and action. I strongly support the institution of marriage and believe that our government should support efforts to strengthen this important bond between a man and a woman. However, I also believe individuals should have the right and their rights protected when entering into civil agreements and contracts. The Chisum Amendment that was added to the bill puts into question the consideration and protection of civil unions. Since this proposed constitutional amendment now includes the prohibition of such arrangements, I could not in good conscience vote in favor of HJR 6.
Chavez

I fully agree that the institution of marriage should be limited to one man and one woman. I supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which is current Texas law. If that were the issue before us today, I would vote the same way again. However, in its continuing zeal to protect the institution of marriage, the legislature now infringes on the contractual rights of both men and women. For example, common-law marriages between men and women are in essence civil unions—but the Chisum Amendment bans civil unions between men and women—and not solely between individuals of the same sex. This is an unnecessary and improper governmental intrusion into the rights of individuals.
Dunnam and Gallego

My intention was to vote for HJR 6 as passed by the State Affairs Committee. I believe in the institution of marriage and that it is between a woman and a man. My support of this HJR is in keeping with my faith. I support language that states “marriage in this state shall consist of the union of one man and one woman” being placed on the ballot in November.
The additional language and the issues associated with that language I could not support as language that should be put in the Texas Constitution. There is language in the family code that deals with the issues of common law and civil unions and that is the proper place.
Giddings

I believe in marriage being between a man and a woman, and I would have preferred to have voted simply on that, especially since that is existing law. But Representative Chisum added a ban on civil unions—possibly even common law marriages—even though he denies that. I do not believe in banning civil unions. For that reason, I voted in favor of the amendments that would have protected these unions. Because HJR 6 was too vague and went too far, I could not, in good conscience, vote for it. Because I believe in marriage between a man and a woman, I didn t’ vote against it. Instead, I joined several of my colleagues in entering a vote of present, not voting.
Gonzales

This HJR limits the rights of men and women to contract with each other if the agreement or agreements they sign are “similar” to marriage, even if the agreements are between one man and one woman. That provision goes well beyond the original proposal, which was simply to define marriage. There was no justification offered as to why we would want to limit agreements between a man and a woman in our Constitution.
Hochberg

I voted against HJR 6 because I believe the State of Texas already recognizes a marriage as only between a man and a woman. While children in hardworking Texas families are going without health insurance and the number of students who receive the Texas Grant—the real Texas Enterprise Fund—has been cut, the Texas House of Representatives should not waste valuable time and state resources to pointlessly change the Texas Constitution.
When I ran for office I promised to focus on education, health care, and economic development. I will not vote for meaningless legislation while these truly important issues are not being given adequate consideration.
Vo

Update: here’s one apparent, and very welcome, change of heart: then-Democratic State Representative Joaquin Castro (now a Member of Congress) registered “present – not voting” on the legislation in 2005, then entered into the House journal (see above) an explanation which indicated that his objection to the resolution was limited to a provision on civil unions between a man and a woman. He also included:

I strongly support the institution of marriage and believe that our government should support efforts to strengthen this important bond between a man and a woman.

However, this morning, he was on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building standing with activists, and tweeted this:

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 11.33.28 AM

I don’t believe for a second that most of the progressive Democrats who voted yes, or who voted no and added odd journal statements, had discriminatory intent at the time. Indeed, along with voting their conscience, these elected officials also had an obligation to represent constituencies which in 2005 were dead-set against marriage equality. Those who, like Congressman Castro, recognize that there has been a sea-change in public sentiment since the vote in Texas in 2005, should be congratulated, and should be joined by others well-positioned to encourage progress in ensuring that everybody is treated equally.

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