- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Beau Miller and Patrick Summers have been partners for four years, but last December was the first time they spent Christmas at Miller’s parents’ home.

It seemed like a breakthrough, since the younger Miller is an HIV-positive gay activist and his father Rick is a conservative Texas state lawmaker.

But barely seven weeks later, Rick Miller filed a bill that would repeal local ordinances banning discrimination against gay and transgender people, attempting to roll back rules passed in all of Texas’ largest cities.

“We were invited to Christmas, and I thought that was a good step,” said Beau Miller, a commercial litigation and product liability attorney who works on the 41st floor of a gleaming office tower in downtown Houston. But now, “My dad wants people to be able to have the opportunity to discriminate against his own son.”

Across the country, some conservative legislators have been trying to fight back against a series of new gay-tolerant policies even as other, national Republican leaders argue it’s time for the party to abandon the issue. Lawmakers struggled for weeks over gay-related measures in Arkansas and Indiana this spring.

A more personal side of such divides has already arisen in high-profile Republican families, including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and his gay son and former Vice President Dick Cheney and his lesbian daughter. But nowhere is the human dimension now more vividly illustrated than with the Millers.

In March, the younger Miller went to the Capitol to confront his father over the proposal. They haven’t spoken since, except for exchanging text messages when each had recent birthdays.

The 70-year-old Rick Miller says he can’t abide measures passed by Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and El Paso to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to their nondiscrimination codes, as hundreds of municipalities nationwide have done.

Gays, he said, have “become a protected class” whose status is “discriminatory toward me” and other Christians.

“I’m a person who believes in individual liberty and freedom,” Rick Miller said “and I don’t discriminate personally.”

___

BOTH CHAMBERS ADVANCE ABORTION BILLS WITH LITTLE DEBATE

Abortion is again seizing the spotlight at the Texas Capitol - but largely only in small doses that haven’t drawn the kind of heated debate and high emotion that dominated last session.

The House heard minimal discussion Wednesday before voting to mandate that abortion clinic personnel undergo training to prevent human and sex trafficking. The idea is workers will better be able to spot it if any of their patients became pregnant after being forced into the sex trade.

The measure needs a final, largely ceremonial vote before clearing the House. But as the lower chamber was discussing it, the Senate cast a final vote approving a prohibition on covering abortions under insurance plans purchased through the federal marketplace.

More than two dozen states already have similar bans for coverage obtained through the Affordable Care Act, though, and the only drama came when Senators swatted away attempts to add exemptions for rape and incest.

There are fewer sweeping moves to make opposing abortion after state lawmakers imposed some of the toughest restrictions on the procedure in the country last session - despite a nearly 13-hour filibuster by Democrat Wendy Davis that sparked weeks of protests at the Capitol.

This year, abortion battles briefly flared up as part of amendments that conservatives have tried to attach to other bills on the House floor. But the only two measures successfully passed by either chamber were the human trafficking and insurance coverage - and neither has drawn demonstrators.

Rep. Debbie Riddle, a Tomball Republican who sponsored the bill approved Wednesday by the House, said it was “about human life and women being trafficked.”

___

ABBOTT BACKS FAST-MOVING RELIGIOUS OBJECTIONS BILL

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is publicly getting behind a religious objections bill that is moving fast after the U.S. Supreme Court heard historic arguments over gay marriage.

Abbott tweeted Wednesday that he hopes to receive a Republican-backed measure that would allow clergy members to refuse officiating marriages that violate their beliefs.

That Abbott supports the bill isn’t surprising. But it marks the first time he has publicly backed one of a number of proposals that opponents consider anti-gay.

Gay rights groups say the bill redundantly duplicates protections that already exist. Abbott tweeted that pastors’ religious liberty to perform weddings “must be protected.”

The bill was filed in the Senate on the same day last week that the Supreme Court heard the landmark gay marriage case.

___

PRO TEAMS COULD SOON HOLD CASH-PRIZE RAFFLES

The Texas Senate has approved letting pro sport franchises conduct charitable raffles that include cash prizes.

Half of the proceeds from the raffles would go to charity and the rest awarded to the winners.

The bill now goes to Gov. Greg Abbott for his consideration. But even if Abbott signs it into law, the question must still go before Texas voters statewide to amend the state Constitution.

If approved, Texas would join at least 25 other starts that allow pro teams to conduct raffles where half the proceeds go to charity.

Supporters of the measure insist the move is not an expansion of gambling in Texas.

___

ON DECK

The House reconvenes at 10 a.m. Thursday. The Senate resumes its work at 11 a.m.

___

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Have you seen ‘Gilligan’s Island?’” - Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, criticizing a bill by Friendswood Republican Rep. Greg Bonnen that sought to exclude the purchase of some boats from sales taxes. Amid cries of, “Let’s sink this vote!,” Bonnen’s measure was defeated 91 to 25, but may come back up Thursday.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide