Bud Kennedy

Top Texans can’t resist ranting about gay marriage

Suzanne Bryant shows her marriage license at Highland Lounge in Austin after she and her partner, Sarah Goodfriend, became the first legally married gay couple in Texas.
Suzanne Bryant shows her marriage license at Highland Lounge in Austin after she and her partner, Sarah Goodfriend, became the first legally married gay couple in Texas. TNS

Mighty as it is, Texas is not mighty enough to turn back the clock.

Every marriage soon might be performed and recognized nationwide under a federal ruling, a stroke for liberty and an average $15,000 boost for the economy.

State leaders, sworn to uphold current laws, must choose between begrudging acceptance or kicking and screaming.

One of Texas’ wisest political science experts predicts the latter.

Whatever courts rule on an Austin same-sex marriage last week, or whatever the Supreme Court rules in June on the 14th Amendment equal right to marry, Republicans “should rail against it for one powerful reason,” professor Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University wrote by email.

Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Joe Straus, more business leaders than preachers, can’t let faith-and-values conservatives such as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton seem more outspoken, Jillson wrote.

The Republican runoff last year showed that “diehard conservatives are a 2-to-1 majority,” Jillson wrote.

“I think Abbott knows that Patrick will challenge him the moment he thinks he can get by him on the right.”

That means more railing against federal courts on same-sex marriage, even when the same leaders are railing in favor of a federal lower court on delayed immigration enforcement.

A 40-year political science professor at UT Pan American in Edinburg, Jerry Polinard, remembers the 1960s debate over interracial marriage.

He predicts more of the same harsh rhetoric.

“If you’re an elected official in Texas and want to remain in office,” he wrote by email, “you play to your base and attack ‘judge-made law.’

“You cite the Bible, which was cited in the fight over interracial marriage.

“And you coast to re-election.”

The real challenge will come when any officials resist a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriages, he wrote.

Such a decision is expected in June, days after the June 1 end of the Texas Legislature.

Matthew Wilson, an SMU political science professor who writes and teaches on religion in politics, advised a dignified response upholding “respect for the democratic process and the rule of law.”

“They are defending a definition of marriage that was approved overwhelmingly by Texas voters,” Wilson wrote by email.

If that’s overturned, he wrote, leaders “can express their disappointment, their enduring conviction that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, but their obligation [is] to abide by the law. There’s not much else they can do.”

At TCU, professor Jim Riddlesperger noted that statewide opinion polls now support recognizing same-sex marriage.

Leaders should let the issue “become moot,” he wrote, “and give conservatives a way to move past the issue before it becomes a political albatross.”

Meanwhile, Patrick will be a guest Sunday at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church in Plano, setting the stage for a Tuesday speech at a “Faith and Family Day” Capitol rally hosted by Austin-based Texas Values.

Abbott will greet the same group that morning.

Texas Values has labeled an Austin probate judge’s ruling allowing a same-sex marriage “rogue” and called for the judge himself to be “held accountable.”

The screaming is only beginning.

         
         

Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy

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