With the Texas House moving at a glacial pace, Democrats became increasingly confident Wednesday that they can run out the legislative clock, killing a bill designed to make it difficult, if not impossible, for same-sex Texans to wed — even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules otherwise.
If Democrats can keep House Bill 4105 from receiving a floor vote before a midnight Thursday deadline, the anti-gay-marriage legislation would die — along with about 200 other bills scheduled for action behind it.
With no similar bill filed in the Senate, and with limited opportunity to add HB 4105 as an amendment to other legislation, the Republican measure would likely be done for the legislative session that ends June 1.
“At this point, there are a lot more bad bills than good ones. A lot of us are in no hurry to get to them,” said state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie.
But Democrats’ top target is HB 4105, which has 90 Republican co-authors — a strong majority of the 150 House members — and has gained national attention for its innovative attempt to inoculate Texas from a Supreme Court ruling, expected this summer, that might extend same-sex marriage to all 50 states.
Known as the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act, the bill would prohibit state and local government employees in Texas from issuing a marriage license to gay couples or from recognizing the validity of a same-sex marriage legally performed in another state.
HB 4105 also would ban state agencies and local governments from spending money to issue same-sex marriage licenses or to enforce a court order requiring marriage licenses to be issued to gay couples.
Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, said his bill would preserve the ability of Texas and its citizens to define marriage in the traditional manner, free of interference from federal judges.
“It positions Texas to address (marriage) as Texas wants to address it,” he said.
Bell said he expects Democratic efforts to derail his bill to fail. “We are cognizant of the things you can do to move it along” to a vote, he said. “I’m highly confident that we will get there.”
But Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, said Democrats are energized to deny HB 4105 a vote before Thursday’s midnight deadline, which would kill all bills that haven’t received an initial vote on the House floor.
“We’re not going to see a vote,” Canales said. “If we do, I would be pretty amazed.”
Canales said Democrats have been watching the clock since Monday, when several began a loosely organized effort to slow action by filing amendments and extending debate on bills.
Those efforts kicked into high gear Wednesday — aided in part by Republicans who filed many of the 20 amendments to a bill designed to boost hotel construction, spending 75 minutes on legislation that was eventually voted down.
Democrats also latched onto a bill designed to change the law regarding judicial bypasses allowing minors to have an abortion without parental notification — extending debate late into the night with amendments, debate and points of order.
A hearty and lengthy debate also is expected Thursday morning on a bill to reform the state’s public school finance system, after which about 70 bills are scheduled ahead of HB 4105 — many of which can expect additional delaying tactics by Democrats, Canales said.
“That one’s a priority, and we would love to see it never hit the floor,” Canales said of HB 4105.
Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said she has prepared several amendments in case Bell’s bill makes it to a floor vote, and she has heard of several others being drafted by Democrats. Even so, she said, efforts will focus on delaying House action.
“If we do not have a floor debate on this misguided bill, we’d be doing Texas a favor,” Israel said.