Friday, January 14, 2011

Bipartisan Votes Key to LGBT Legislative Successes - Part III

In which marriage is denied in order to defend it and bipartisanship works against the queer community.

[Be sure to read Part I and Part II]

78th Legislature
SB7 (Texas Defense of Marriage Act)
by Chisum
Passed on Second Reading
Yea (35 Democrats, 85 Republicans)
nay (11 Democrats)
Present, not voting (2 Democrats, 1 Republicans)
Absent (8 Democrats, 1 Republicans)
Absent, Excused (5 Democrats, 1 Republicans)

The 78th Legislature was perhaps the most contentious in the history of the state. Republicans had captured a majority in the Texas House for the first time since reconstruction. They used this new majority to elect Tom Craddick as Speaker of the House. Craddick's reign as speaker was marked by vicious political maneuvering, questionable campaign finance and swift reprisals against anyone seen as opposing his rule.

George Bush had recently been elected riding a wave of opposition to marriage equality. As activists in states like New Hampshire and Massachusetts began to fight in the courts for the right to marry, conservatives across the country began to introduce anti-equality legislation at the state level.

In the Texas House Warren Chisum (he of "sexual preference") introduced the "Texas Defense of Marriage Act", which enshrined in statute Texas's policy of not providing equal access to marriage to people in same-sex relationships.

Democrats were running scared after their defeat in the polls the previous November. 57% of the Democrats in the 78th Texas House voted in favor of denying marriage equality. While some of those probably honestly thought that was the right thing to do most were simply bending to the prevailing political wind. Willing to compromise other people's civil rights for their own political career most of them have since lost their bids for re-election. Only 40% of the Democrats who voted for inequality are still serving in the Texas House, 73% of those who stood by our community still hold their seats.

In the case of Texas DOMA bipartisan support for legislation worked against the LGBT community. Once again the bill would have passed solely along partisan lines, but the overwhelming Democrat support for this hateful legislation would create the impression of a mandate leading, just two years later, to the inclusion of DOMA not only in statute, but in the State Constitution.

Up Next: Marriage is one thing - but what about parenthood?

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