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Officials urge high court not to expand same-sex marriage ruling


Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton last week filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Texas Supreme Court over issues they say were not addressed in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case declaring same-sex marriage a fundamental right.

The three officials asked the Texas Supreme Court to accept their view that Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision recognizing a right to same-sex marriage, “does not resolve all constitutional issues relating same-sex marriage.” The brief points to Parker v. Pigeon and related cases involving a Houston mayor’s extending benefits to same-sex spouses of city employees, and asks that a lower court’s temporary injunction preventing the extension of those benefits be reinstated.

“Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit made clear that Obergefell left a host of issues unresolved,” Abbott, Patrick, and Paxton asserted. They maintained that “the traditional, Texas definition of marriage” is still in force because “a federal district court judgment against state officials does not amend the Texas Constitution or the Texas Family Code.”

Referenced in the brief is Texas Family Code Section 6.204 paragraph (c), subparagraph (2), which says, “The state or an agency or political subdivision of the state may not give effect to a right or claim to any legal protection, benefit, or responsibility asserted as a result of a marriage between persons of the same sex or a civil union in this state or in any other jurisdiction.” That section of the law took effect on Sept. 1, 2003.

Workgroup is appointed

State Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, on Oct. 27 appointed a Senate Finance Workgroup on Child Protection to evaluate funding to address the ongoing crisis at Child Protective Services.

This followed an interim hearing of the committee, in which members heard testimony on unmet needs for children under the care of the state, and calls for the hiring of more full-time employees to meet those needs.

Nelson appointed as members of the workgroup Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, chair; Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury; Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin; and Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.

“We need a plan that keeps children safe. There is no issue of greater importance,” Nelson said. “This workgroup will review the agency’s request for immediate funding and, in preparation for the next budget cycle, review the agency’s entire proposed budget line by line to ensure that every dollar is being put toward successfully keeping children safe.”

“I am very concerned about the welfare and safety of the 511 children we discussed at our hearing, and I am asking for daily updates until that number reaches zero,” Nelson added.

Ed Sterling is the director of member services for the Texas Press Association in Austin.... Contact him at 512-477-6755 or edsterling@texaspress.com.

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