TXGOP Platform Calls For Tougher Penalties Against Civil Employees Who Allow Same-Sex Marriages

It's been almost five years since voters in Texas approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state from performing or recognizing same-sex marriages or civil unions.  The Texas GOP platform wants the legislature to pass a law that would make it a felony for civil employees to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, or perform marriage ceremonies for them.   Party spokesman Bryan Preston concedes that no one has tried to issue a marriage license to a gay couple yet.

"But I think they're heading off  the danger before it begins of folks. For instance, they're probably trying to prevent what happened in San Francisco a couple of years ago when the mayor just decided, unilaterally, to start performing marriages that were illegal."

If a civil employee tried to perform a same-sex marriage in Harris County, he or she would face misdemeanor charges, a fine of up to $500, and could be fired.  The desire among some in the GOP to make that a felony would seem to put one group of Republicans in a particularly awkward spot — gay men and lesbians who belong to the organization Log Cabin Republicans.  Rob Schlein is the president of LCR's Dallas chapter. 

"It's one of those issues that, yes, it's in the platform.  But I don't think the rank-and-file Republican legislator agrees with the statement.  I don't think it's going to be a high priority with a split house, where you have such a small difference between Democrats and Republicans.  I don't think it would ever make the slate."

Schlein says he tried to remove the platform language during recent meetings at his local precinct in north Dallas.

"Quite frankly, it deadlocked on a tie vote, so that was actually progress.  But we still have to work on that."

Schlein believes even more progress may be possible now.  Forty percent of the delegation at the party's convention earlier this month in Dallas was brand new. 

"Many of them were more on the Libertarian sect of the party that believe in liberty, not so much getting involved in the social issues.  So I think the stage is set that we probably can make changes to the platform next cycle."

Some in the Libertarian sect Schlein referred to might see the call for felony charges against civil employees who green light gay marriages as a contradiction of the Texas GOP's core principles, including  limited government and opportunity for all.  But party spokesman Bryan Preston says there's no inconsistency.

"A stance like this supports traditional marriage, and it supports the rule of law.  And what it does is oppose actions like those in San Francisco and have been taken by courts in other states to impose something on the state of Texas that voters don't want."

Log Cabin Republican Schlein.

"If you want to have a smaller, less intrusive government, that's what you should strive for — a less intrusive government.  So this is one particular area that I think most Log Cabin members and allies would disagree with that statement."

Even if the U.S. Supreme Court were to one day rule that state bans on gay marriage violate the U.S. Constitution, don't look for the Republican party to drop its opposition to those marriages.  The Texas GOP platform is still calling for the re-criminalization of sodomy, seven years after the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that such laws are unconstitutional.

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