- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Mere weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court heard unprecedented arguments about whether the Constitution protects gay couples’ rights to marry, Texas Republicans are moving to shield the state from abiding by an eventual ruling that may not go their way.

Two bills on the issue are scheduled for hot-button House votes Tuesday. The most-watched proposal would bar state, county and local officials from issuing or enforcing a same-sex marriage license, and prevent recognition of gay marriages performed in other states.

Also up for debate and passage is a religious objections bill that could give Texas a taste of the uproar similar measures caused when legislatures approved them recently in Indiana and Arkansas. Rep. Scott Sanford wants to excuse clergy members from presiding over weddings that violate their religious beliefs. The McKinney Republican’s bill would also allow religious organizations to refuse to sell goods or provide services to same-sex couples.

Those votes come as the Senate prepares, perhaps as early as Monday, to approve its own religious objections measure - this one also shielding clergy members from officiating gay marriages they oppose on religious grounds.

The language of the bill is not as controversial, but conservative pastors supporting it lined up last week to decry gay marriage as offensive to God.

Here are some other issues to watch this week at the Texas Capitol:

EXECUTION DRUGS SECRECY: The House is poised to take up and likely pass a bill that would keep secret the identity of manufacturers of the state’s dwindling supply of execution drugs. The bill is eligible for floor debate amid reports that those producers have received threats. A companion measure is eligible for a Senate vote that could come this week, too, meaning some variation of the legislation is moving closer to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature. While serving as state attorney general, Abbott first issued an opinion stating that the drug manufacturers’ names should be released - but later reversed himself. Any new law on the issue would make that legal question moot.

TEXTING WHILE DRIVING: The House has already approved a statewide texting-while-driving ban, but the proposal has been languishing in Senate committee for weeks. Its upper chamber sponsor, Laredo Democrat Judith Zaffirini, now says she has the votes to clear committee and may bring her bill to the Senate floor as early as this week. Efforts in previous sessions to approve a statewide ban stalled - even though 46 states already have similar prohibitions on texting while behind-the-wheel.

JUDICIAL BYPASS ABORTIONS: The House may soon debate a proposal making it more difficult for girls younger than 18 who face extreme circumstances to have abortions without their parents’ consent. Since 1999, Texas law has allowed a “judicial bypass” mechanism whereby courts can grant permission to terminate a pregnancy in secret without parental consent. About 300 teens annually obtain one. The bill by Victoria Republican Rep. Geanie Morrison would slow the process while limiting eligibility.


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