Friday, April 10, 2015

Legislative Update for April 10: Marriage Fees, Surrogacy and Homeless Youth

This week in your Legislative Update: Daniel tells us about Rep. Bell's contingency plan in case of the freedom to marry and two good bills gain momentum.
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I’m Daniel with Equality Texas and this is the Legislative update for Friday, April 10th, the 88th day of the Texas Legislature’s 140 day regular session.

On Wednesday, the House State Affairs Committee heard public testimony on HB 4105 by Cecil Bell. The bill is yet another attempt by Rep. Bell to forestall an anticipated freedom to marry ruling by the Supreme Court. Bell offered a substitute to his originally filed bill. The substitute places largely duplicative language in the family code that forbids the state from recognizing a marriage between two people of the same gender. OK – thus far all he’s done is soup up the existing anti-marriage language and it’s doubtful that any future court decision that strikes the existing language wouldn’t also strike this new language.

Then the bill does something interesting… After saying “no marriage licenses for loving, same-gender couples” it says that IF a marriage license is given to a loving, same-gender couple that the filing fee collected by the county clerk goes to, not the county clerk as with all the other marriage license filing fees, but to the state’s general fund. Well, that’s certainly an interesting way to grab some more money for the state, but it’s hard to figure out how this money grab squares with the oft-espoused philosophy of those in the lege that the best government is local government.

So let me recap… HB 4105 says: “No marriages for loving same-gender couples – but if you DO get married – the state gets the money.” Okay…

On Thursday, the House Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee passed HB 1704 by Rep. Joe Deshotel – the bill would allow agreements between prospective parents and surrogate mothers entered into in other states to be enforceable by Texas courts. Because of the restrictiveness of Texas’ gestational agreements law this bill would make this method of growing a family more accessible to LGBT families.

Next week, Rep. Sylvester Turner’s homeless youth study bill, HB 679, is scheduled for consideration on the House floor. The bill is on the schedule for Wednesday, but, given the nature of the house, it’s likely it will actually be considered later in the week. Up to 40% of homeless youth are LGBT-identified. Rep. Turner’s bill would help the state better understand the needs of this vulnerable population and identify untapped funding sources to help them. You can use our ACTION CENTER to contact your state representatives in support.

If you’re in Austin on Monday and not already participating in Freedom Advocacy Day join us on the North steps of the capitol at 12:30 for a Call to Action.

Next Tuesday is the deadline to donate to support Equality Texas’ lobbying and advocacy work and have your donation matched, dollar for dollar, up to $5,000. That’s a huge opportunity to support our work at the capitol as we head into these last 52 days of the session. If you’ve ever considered supporting our work, now is the time to do it! The link to donate is in the episode notes.

On April 26 and 27th join us in Austin for the Trans Texas Caucus and Lobby Day.

On May 17th join us in San Antonio for the Spirit of Texas brunch, tickets available at

Until next week, I’m Daniel with Equality Texas.

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