House members spent the day working through a long list of mostly non-controversial bills. But with each vote, a debate over gay marriage got closer. HB 3567 is expected to be the first to come up on the house floor this week. The bill protects preachers from being sued if they refuse to perform a gay marriage.
"This is just about a pastor's right to say no," said State Representative Patricia Harless (R) Spring
Rep. Harless is a co-sponsor of the legislation. She says the need for the protection was justified after several Houston pastors recently came out in opposition to a pro-LGBT ordinance. Their sermons and notes were subpoenaed in court by city leaders and Harless believes that tactic will be used again by gay rights activist despite constitutional protections.
"I think there will be a push to test some of the pastors, some of the churches and then they will spend millions of dollars and years in litigation."
A similar preacher protection bill cleared the state senate on Monday. A final version is expected to be sent to the governor but another gay marriage bill, filed by state Rep. Cecil Bell (R) Magnolia, may have a more difficult time. HB 4105 would prevent county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples - even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down gay marriage bans later this summer.
"This is about State sovereignty it is about whether or not we as separate States and citizens of separate States have a sovereign right to define and to regulate marriage or not," said Rep. Bell.
Some House members like Sylvester Turner say HB 4105 seems to be a re-write of legislation from the turbulent 60's.
"I don't like the message that it sends, I remember the time when there were people who didn't want to see African Americans integrate restaurants, and Housing. Didn't want African Americans and Whites to marry, and the actions many states took to avoid that, to get around that. I put this Bill pretty much in the same context," said the Houston Democrat.
While Rep. Turner is a definite no vote on Bell's marriage license bill he has signed on in support of the preacher protection legislation.
It may not be until Thursday when the two bills could come up for a vote.?