According to a new bill filed Wednesday in Texas, state and local employees of the government who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples may be on the road to having their salaries suspended.
The Texas Tribune reports that the bill is called the “Preservation of Sovereignty of Marriage Act,” but House Bill 623 doesn’t really have a lot to do with marriage. In fact, it’s aimed at preventing marriage from becoming legal in Texas. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) also said that the bill intends to “prevent the federal government from imposing moral standards on Texas” by prohibiting taxes and other public funds from being used to recognize same-sex marriage.
The bill also requires that state courts dismiss legal actions to challenge a provision of the bill, and award legal costs and attorney fees to defendants. The bill also says that the state isn’t subject to a lawsuit for complying with the act — regardless whether or not it’s contradictory to a federal ruling. They cite the 11th Amendment, which grants states sovereign immunity, as justification.
Bell said that it was his “expectation” and “belief” that “our courts should not be tied up in the matter.”
The bill, however, is going against established legal precedent, according to Daniel Williams. Williams, the legislative specialist for the gay rights group Equality Texas, said that the bill is “retreading very well-established precedent here. In 1869, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Texas v. White that no, Texas does may not ignore federal law whenever it wants.” Williams added “Beyond it ignoring federal law, it would actually punish state employees who follow the law.”
This reeks of nullification. And it won’t work; if this temper tantrum passes, it’ll rightly get shot down in federal courts.
Appellate courts have rejected bans on same-sex marriage across several states, and Texas is now one of only fourteen that ban marriage.
A federal judge struck down the 2005 voter-approved marriage ban, but immediately issued a stay on the ruling. Arguments begin on Friday in the 5th circuit court of appeals. It’ll probably lose there, too, if previous trends hold true.