State Sen. Jose Rodriguez has filed a pair of bills that would do away with an old Texas law barring "homosexual conduct" and overturn a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said he filed the bills because he feels the laws discriminate against gay couples. The Legislature would have to vote on the bills.
"The time has come to put Texas in the mainstream of American values," Rodriguez said. "The simple fact is that the government should not stand in the way of people who want to enjoy the legal rights and privileges of marriage that the rest of us enjoy."
The "homosexual conduct" law remains in the Texas Penal Code even after it was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court
in 2003. The law makes it a misdemeanor crime to engage in sexual intercourse with a person of the same sex.
The law was a part of the Chico's Tacos gay kiss controversy in 2009, when an El Paso police officer cited the law as he threatened to arrest a group of gay men who had been kicked out of a restaurant for kissing.
"It's time that we repeal that provision so that it doesn't result in untrained officers misinterpreting the law," Rodri guez said. "As long as it's in the books, some people may not realize that there was a Supreme Court decision that declared it unconstitutional. We shouldn't be having the types of incidents that our citizens encountered there in El Paso."
Rodriguez's other bill seeks to overturn the
Texas Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as the "union of one man and one woman" and was approved by voters in 2005.
Gov. Rick Perry is a staunch supporter of the amendment. "Governor Perry believes in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, regarding it as the linchpin of the family unit and, thus, society as a whole," the governor's website stated.
The state of Texas does not recognize a marriage or civil union between people of the same sex, regardless of the jurisdiction where it was issued.
Rodriguez's proposed constitutional amendment faces slim chances for passage in the Republican-dominated legislature. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in the state House and Senate. Texas voters must then approve the measure.
"Whether or not we can get the two-thirds, I know that that's an uphill battle, but I think that we need to start the discussion on it," Rodriguez said.
Daniel Rollings, president of PFLAG El Paso (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), said Rodriguez was doing the right thing.
"Equality is equality," Rollings said.
Daniel Borunda may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6102. Follow him on Twitter @BorundaDaniel.Times reporter Zahira Torres contributed to this story.
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