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Chuck Smith

This is not how you put the interests of the child first

It’s the opposite of that, honestly.

Rep. James Frank

Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, vice chairman of the House Human Services Committee, has authored House Bill 3859, which would protect faith-based providers from retaliation if they assert their “sincerely held religious beliefs” while caring for abused and neglected children.

The bill would include allowing faith-based groups to deny a placement if it’s against their religious beliefs; place a child in a religion-based school; deny referrals for abortion-related contraceptives, drugs or devices; and refusing to contract with other organizations that go against their religious beliefs.

Frank said the his bill is meant to give “reasonable accommodations” for faith-based groups and not meant to be exclusionary. He said the ultimate goal is to help find the right home for kids.

Faith-based organizations are closing their doors to foster children “because they can’t afford to stay in business when they’re getting sued on stuff,” Frank said. “They’re basically being told to conform or get out on stuff that’s important but it’s not core to taking care of foster homes.”

[…]

Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, an LGBT rights group, said he was scared of HB 3859 after watching similar legislation become law in Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Virginia. He said Frank’s bill allows the possibility of children being denied services because of what a provider believes and that would not fly if it were any other state contractor.

“Any piece of legislation that would allow the personal or religious beliefs of a provider to override the best interest of the child is misplaced and I would suggest is a gross change in what religious liberty actually means,” Smith said.

[…]

Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact, said it’s all about the most effective group getting the contract and following the state’s rules. However, she said if legislators are keen to give more protections, there needs to be a sit-down meeting with lawmakers and all of the faith-based groups. She said not all groups have the same needs and many feel current religious protections are enough. Texas Impact has not taken a position on HB 3859.

“This isn’t a topic that lends itself well to sound bites,” Moorhead said. “It’s too easy for politicians and advocates to short change the policy in favor of a glib soundbite and not realize the politics are too complicated and the stakes are too high.”

Not to mention “the devil is in the details” with HB 3859, said Joshua Houston, director of government affairs for Texas Impact. He pointed out allowing groups protection if they have “sincerely held religious beliefs” can apply to views on physical discipline, diets, medical care, blood transfusions, vaccinations and how boys and girls are treated. He said that kind of ambiguity is what made Roloff untouchable for decades.

“When you say ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ you’re opening the door wide,” Houston said. “There’s all kind of weird religious beliefs that are out there.”

I can’t put the objections to this bill any better than Chuck Smith and Joshua Houston did. The article opens with the story of Lester Roloff, who was once the poster child for why “sincerely held religious beliefs” are not a sufficient reason for something to be sanctioned by the state. Like SB6, this bill may not make it to the floor for a vote but could get attached to another bill as an amendment by those who are determined to push this boundary. Let’s please not create a new (and almost certainly worse) Lester Roloff for this generation.

No response necessary

Unless it’s “We will respect and fully comply with the court’s ruling”.

RedEquality

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide as early as this week whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. For supporters of same-sex marriage, it’s an emotional waiting game.

“People are literally on pins and needles,” said Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas. Smith feels the Supreme Court is on the brink of ruling same-sex couples everywhere have the right to marry. “Such a ruling would certainly be received by joy by thousands of people in Texas who have waited — some for all their lives — to marry the person that they love.”

[…]

The Texas Constitution bans same-sex marriage, and many lawmakers have vowed to fight any ruling to the contrary by the nation’s high court.

The state’s legal response will fall to new Texas attorney general Ken Paxton. Reached by KVUE following a speech to a conservative think tank Monday in Austin, Paxton said it’s too early to say what his response may be.

“It’s very difficult for us to say what’s going to happen given the fact that we don’t know what the result is and we don’t know how that opinion is going to be written,” Paxton said.

When asked whether he intends to fight the ruling, Paxton reiterated that such a decision would depend upon the ruling. “Obviously we have a constitution that protects the definition of marriage, and we’ll do everything we can.”

“If the Supreme Court issues a ruling saying that the freedom to marry is the law of the land, I would expect and hope that marriages begin to happen that day,” Smith said.

I’ve already hypothesized what the state’s likely response will be. It’s really just a question of how long it takes before the hammer comes down, and how obnoxious the resisters are. Stupid pastor tricks are a bit harder to predict, and while there is some legitimate concern that they could cause a bit of real trouble, my best guess is that once everyone else realizes that no one is forcing them in any way to participate in a same-sex wedding, this will all be seen as the circus sideshow that it is. Basically, expect some extreme craziness for the short term, then a return to more-or-less normality, with a shift in focus and tactics still to come.

First lawsuit filed against Texas Double Secret Illegal Anti-Gay Marriage amendment

Probably not a game-changer, however.

RedEquality

A Galveston man filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging a provision of the Texas Constitution defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman.

Domenico Nuckols, 60, said he believes he will prevail because of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which included the same definition of marriage.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle, but I fired the first shot,” Nuckols said.

The gay rights group Equality Texas was unaware of any similar lawsuits since the Supreme Court Decision, said Chuck Smith, executive director. A section of the state constitution’s Bill of Rights reads, “Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and woman.” A ballot measure adding the clause passed in 2005 with 75 percent of the vote.

[…]

Nuckols, a retired nuclear engineer, is representing himself and has asked the court to waive his filing fees.

Although supportive of Nuckols’ goal, Smith worried that Nuckols’ lack of an attorney may indicate that he doesn’t have a well-planned legal strategy.

“I would not encourage someone to do something like this without having legal counsel to asses the strategic values of the case,” Smith said. “If you don’t do it the right way you can do more harm than good by losing a case and setting a negative precedent.”

As you know, I Am Not A Lawyer, but I am not too worried about this suit creating a bad precedent because I doubt it will survive a motion to dismiss. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I don’t think one can advance a lawsuit like this without demonstrating that one has been harmed by the conflict between federal and state law. Since DOMA has just been struck down, and people are still analyzing the opinion and figuring out what its implications are, it has to be too soon for anyone to demonstrate such harm. Mr. Nuckols is talking about being harmed by the deportation of his partner in 1986. I don’t doubt that he was harmed by that, but I don’t think the striking down of DOMA – which didn’t even exist in 1986 – can be used to address that.

I am sure, just as Chuck Smith is, that someone will come forward soon enough that will have good cause for a lawsuit. I have always believed that this is the shortest path to remedy the damage that the 2005 Double Secret Anti-Gay Marriage constitutional amendment cased. Public opinion is changing – support for marriage equality is now the pluarlity position in Texas – but as we know it’ll take a lot more than that to repeal a constitutional amendment. I’m also quite sure that when the right case comes along, the plaintiffs will not be representing themselves. I wish Mr. Nuckols all the best, but I don’t expect his name to be the one associated with the eventual case that brings equality to Texas.

How long before marriage equality comes to Texas?

As is so often the case, the state of Texas will lag behind the rest of the country on the issue.

On the right side of history

If DOMA is struck down, questions will be raised about states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages and if it matters where a couple lives to receive federal benefits, [Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney in the Dallas office of Lambda Legal, the national LGBT civil rights group] said. Those questions won’t be answered until after the decision has been handed down.

One thing is clear, though: Contrary to popular belief, a favorable DOMA ruling wouldn’t require states like Texas to recognize same-sex marriage.

“I’m not sure this is going to completely answer all the questions if the court takes it up, but it’s going to move us a lot further down the road,” Upton said. “In terms of marriage, it won’t have any affect on that. The Supreme Court’s decision in DOMA cases is not going to tell states they do or don’t have to marry someone. It’s just going to tell the federal government if you’re legally married, you have to recognize it.”

Texas and the other states with marriage amendments have two potential paths to marriage equality — repeal the bans before passing marriage equality legislatively or at the ballot box, or await a future Supreme Court ruling forcing them to recognize same-sex marriages.

Most advocates believe the court will force Texas along with other holdout states to recognize same-sex marriage in about a decade as more and more states legalize the practice.

Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said the likely outcome would be a majority of states approving same-sex marriage, leading Congress or the Supreme Court “to make a decision on a national level.”

“I don’t think it’ll be all that long,” Smith said. “I think it’s certainly probable within a five- to 10-year timeframe.”

Smith said Texas’ marriage amendment could be repealed, but it would take educating voters, as well as electing more politicians who support marriage equality. Repealing the amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote of both the state House and state Senate to place it on the ballot, then approval from a simple majority of voters.

“It is possible if there is intense, on-the-ground work convincing Texas that public opinion is on our side,” Smith said. “So it would be a significant amount of electoral change in order to legislatively change marriage in Texas. That’s not impossible, but it just takes work.”

I don’t think a legislative solution is likely to be viable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that Rep. Garnet Coleman introduces a bill to repeal Texas’ awful Double Secret Illegal Anti-Gay Marriage constitutional amendment, but it’s precisely because this bit of bigotry has been enshrined in our state’s constitution that I don’t think it can be removed by the same means. I can envision a legislative majority on marriage equality during this decade if I’m feeling optimistic, but a two-thirds supermajority? Not in the foreseeable future, possibly not in my lifetime. The numbers are improving, but there’s still a long way to go. No, one way or another I believe it will be settled in a courtroom. My assumption has always been that when and if DOMA is struck down by the Supreme Court, sooner or later someone will file a lawsuit in Texas arguing that the state’s law discriminates against those who don’t have the wherewithal to travel to a more enlightened state to get married, and that this represents an unequal situation that cannot be allowed to stand. How long that might take – I assume it too would ultimately be decided by SCOTUS – I have no idea. But first things first. Let’s hope SCOTUS does the right thing on DOMA, and we’ll go from there.