Fort Worth Representative Lon Burnam Files Texas' First Post-DOMA Marriage Equality Bill
Back in February, when the Texas legislature was in session the first time, Representative Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, authored a bill aimed to authorize "a marriage between two persons of the same sex in this state and repealing the statutory prohibition against the recognition of a civil union or similar relationship entered into in another state between two persons of the same sex."
Representative Lon Burnam
It's not surprising that Burnam's bill never got any traction. This was almost five months ago, before the Supreme Court reached a decision in United States v. Windsor and struck down substantial chunks of the Defense of Marriage Act. This is a new, week-old epoch, and on Monday Burnam filed another bill with the same aim as the last one.
This bill's chances of getting any farther than the last one range from insignificant to nonexistent, but Burnam told us he thought it was important to file the legislation anyway.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," he said. "And this is the second step. It's a vehicle to keep talking about what's going on at the national level."
Burnam's bill, which is not a constitutional amendment but rather deals with rights like parenting and property, is the first challenge to Texas's ban on same-sex marriage since the Court ruled on DOMA and California's Proposition 8, but others are already following suit. Yesterday a Galveston man filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the state's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. The man, Domenico Nuckols, 60, had a partner deported in 1986.
While there are likely more lawsuits on the way, Chuck Smith, executive director the gay rights group Equality Texas, told the Houston Chronicle that sometimes such cases can be damaging. In this case, Nuckols is representing himself. "I would not encourage someone to do something like this without having legal counsel to assess 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."
"First and foremost the likelihood of Governor Perry adding it to the call is low," said Lisa Scheps, operations manager for Equality Texas. If Perry doesn't add the bill to the special session then it won't even be up for discussion. "But we're happy he filed it," Scheps added. Equality Texas considers this past session a successful one for equality rights issues, and Burnam's bill is keeping up that momentum.
"Texas was two years behind finding out about the emancipation proclamation," Burnam said. "I want to make sure it's not two year's behind what the Supreme Court said about marriage equality."