- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Dick Francis appealed to Texas lawmakers ten years ago to vote against a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Legislators - and voters statewide - approved the amendment in 2005. Late Wednesday, Francis once again pleaded with lawmakers on behalf of his gay son.

He asked members of the House State Affairs committee to vote against the “Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act” by Magnolia Republican Rep. Cecil Bell Jr., a bill that would bar state and local employees from licensing or recognizing same-sex marriages - even if the U.S. Supreme Court authorizes them. Francis said Bell’s bill should be renamed the “Preservation of Discrimination.”

“If you vote for this bill, you are judging my son,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Sylvester Turner, of Houston, told Francis his statement was powerful and that he gave a voice to many people.

“We’re certainly not here to devalue your son, neither his partner,” Turner said.

Bell’s proposal, which is still pending in committee, would make the Texas Secretary of State solely responsible for issuing state marriage licenses. Under the bill, no state or local funds could be used to “license, register, certify or support” gay marriage. The measure would also prohibit officials from recognizing, granting or enforcing gay marriage licenses.

The Supreme Court will hear same-sex marriage arguments this summer. Bell’s bill aims to ensure that, regardless of their ruling, gay marriage would face challenges in Texas. Bell said while the Texas Constitution clearly bans marriage for couples other than one man and one woman, “unfortunately,” a state judge issued a same-sex marriage license in direct violation of that ban.

In February, the Travis County Clerk granted permission for lesbians Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend to wed. The license was ordered by an Austin judge because Goodfriend has cancer.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton immediately asked the state Supreme Court to invalidate the marriage and block county clerks from issuing marriage licenses. The court sided with Paxton on the latter request but didn’t address Bryant and Goodfriend’s marriage.

Jonathan Saenz, president of nonprofit conservative group Texas Values, said the wedding was proof that “people have decided to not follow our laws.” He added that “state courts have a right to decide these issues.”

Turner asked Saenz if Texas should follow any forthcoming U.S. Supreme Court opinion, to which Saenz replied, “We’ll have to see what they say.”

Guadalupe County Clerk Teresa Kiel cautioned committee members from passing the bill because of its fiscal impact. In addition to costing the Secretary of State’s office an estimated $1 million a year, moving marriage licenses away from counties would “be devastating to counties,” she said.

Dallas County would lose an estimated $1.3 million, Kiel said, while smaller counties like Victoria County would lose $50,000.

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Follow Eva Ruth Moravec on Twitter: www.twitter.com/evaruth


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