Gay Marriage: Is Texas Postponing the Inevitable?

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Marley Blonsky (left) and Whitney Young on their "unofficial" wedding day on Sep. 9, 2012.

Marley Blonsky (left) and Whitney Young on their "unofficial" wedding day on Sep. 9, 2012.

Iris DimmickOn Sept. 8, two months before Washington state voters passed a referendum legalizing same-sex marriage, Marley Blonsky married the woman she had fallen in love with, Whitney Young.

“Right now, I call her my wife. But she’s not,” Blonsky said.

The September ceremony in front of about 200 friends and family in Sequim, Washington was about a personal bond between two people, planned a year in advance. Technically, the state and federal government didn't recognize their marriage, only the “domestic partnership” that Blonsky and Young entered into last year.

The couple watched the election results last Tuesday night at the Westin Hotel’s Referendum 74 party in Seattle [see them in the Seattle Times’ photo essay].

Marley Blonsky (left) and Whitney Young on their "unofficial" wedding day on Sep. 9, 2012.

Marley Blonsky (left) and Whitney Young on their "unofficial" wedding day on Sep. 9, 2012. Photo by Sunshine Charlie.

“It was really scary because they had released some results that said it had failed (at 8 p.m.),” Blonsky said, “People were quiet or crying – then someone’s phone got an update … then everyone’s phone started updating.”

Though results were still trickling in the following day, the ballot was called in favor of same-sex marriage and the party was moved from conference rooms, living rooms and bars to the streets.

Capitol Hill, Seattle on election night, Nov. 6, 2012.

Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle on election night, Nov. 6, 2012. Cellphone photo courtesy of Johnny Dwyer.

“What can I really say about Tuesday night? I live in a city that was so collectively overjoyed by the extension of basic human freedoms, we had to take to the streets and share it with one another...There were people dancing, kissing and just content in the knowledge that we did it.

"I can only imagine that this was a small taste of what the (protesters) of the '60s felt ... an unshakable notion that we were right, that we were winning, this indescribable sensation that our energy would carry us through and our victory would come by sheer momentum. This is the America that the (founders) fought for, solidarity not as whites or blacks or queers or straights or stoners or squares ... but as Americans.”

--- An email from a dear friend of mine, Johnny Dwyer.

I wish I could have been there. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community know how to throw a party. Hugging, music, dancing, booze, smiling and kissing right there on the streets of Capitol Hill, the unofficial center of the LGBTQ and “counterculture” (which I think is a professional’s word for “hipster”) communities close to downtown Seattle.

I received deep looks of concern and wonder when I told friends and family in Colorado, where I was born and raised, and Washington State, where I attended college and lived before moving to San Antonio, that I was moving to Texas.

This election cycle helps illustrate why my loved ones’ furrowed their brows at my decision. My former home states both made big news on Election Day: Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use of marijuana. More importantly, same-sex marriage was legalized in Washington, Maine and Maryland through ballot initiatives rather than a court case.

marriage and civil union laws by state

Marriage and civil union laws by state, Click for larger view. Graphic by the National Conference of the State Legislature.

From the outside – at least within my home-state networks – Texas still conjures several negative images, mostly stereotypes reinforced by individuals such as Gov. Rick Perry. Some people still think Texas is running wild with racist cowboys, Confederate flags, and a 1950s homophobic-gun-on-hip-10-gallon-hat-a-woman’s-place-is-the-kitchen-ultra-conservative throwback culture.

These assumptions are, of course, unfair. Take yourself, for instance: See? Not so bad at all – I’m willing to bet that none of you are even close to resembling that remark. However, stereotypes aside, Texas is still many years away from solid gains in this arena of civil rights.

In 2003, “homosexual conduct” was still a class C misdemeanor offense in Texas (Penal Code Sec.  21.06.). And actually, it still technically is.

The code still states: “A person commits an offense if he engages in deviant sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex. That’s right: it’s been almost a decade since the supreme court found the law unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 123 S. Ct. 2472 and the Republican-dominated Legislature still won’t repeal the section.

Legislation to do so, HB 604 authored by Rep. Jessica Farrar (D- Houston), is currently being ignored in committee, just as it was during two previous attempts in 2007 and 2009.

We can’t even muster the civil-rights strength to clean up a penal code that’s already been found unconstitutional. It may be a long time before same-sex marriage is legal in Texas, or maybe not. Was last Tuesday's four-state sweep the beginning of the end for states opposing gay marriage?

Whitney Young (left) and Marley Blonsky cutting their wedding-day cake on Sep. 9, 2012. Photo by Sunshine Charlie.

Whitney Young and Marley Blonsky cutting their wedding-day cake on Sep. 9, 2012. Photo by Sunshine Charlie.

“I can’t imagine living there (in Texas) as a gay woman,” said Blonsky, who was raised in Fort Worth until her family moved to Washington when she was 11.

Now 26, she works for a shipping and logistics company that frequently requires her to make trips to El Paso – trips that remind her to be careful who she’s open with about her sexuality in Texas, she says.

“I can’t say for the whole state,” she said, “But I don’t tell people I’m gay (in El Paso).”

Texas is hardly devoid of a gay-rights movement – nor is it the only state legislature that is still struggling to (or refusing to) keep up with emerging societal norms.

The Texas Democratic Party platform “opposes attempts to deny the freedom to marry to same sex couples” and has been following through on this statement by introducing bills that would: repeal the definition of marriage as “only of the union of one man and one woman,” allow recognition of marriages, domestic partnerships and civil unions and add sexual orientation to the list of employment discrimination protections. The latter of which was co-authored by Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio), all of which are pending review in committee (where most bills go to die).

There are several advocacy groups in Texas, and in San Antonio, currently working for LGBTQ rights and support: Texas Equality, Human Rights Campaign (San Antonio Steering Committee), American Veterans for Equal Rights (San Antonio Chapter), Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) of San Antonio and the San Antonio Gender Association just to name a few. And last year, Austin City Council announced its official endorsement of same-sex marriage.

Progress.

same-sex marriage poll Texas

Graphic by the Texas Tribune.

According to a 2010 poll conducted by the University of Texas and The Texas Tribune, “fewer than a third of Texans oppose both civil union and marriage for gays and lesbians,” but, “35 percent would allow civil unions but not marriage.” A big “but” when it comes to deciding the legal definition of someone’s relationship. Civil unions and domestic partnerships are not sufficient substitutes for marriage. There isn’t one.

There is also a lot of progress to be made on the federal level. The real fight will be next year in the U.S. Supreme Court.

But doesn’t it feel weird that we’re even talking about this?

“It seems really barbaric that we’re still voting on the civil rights of others, ” Blonsky said.

Maybe it’s just my generation and political bias, but doesn’t it seem like we should be beyond this issue already? When do we get to look back at these debates and be embarrassed over how long it took to achieve equality?

On Dec. 9 – about one month after the initiative passed – Marley Blonsky will marry the woman she loves, Whitney Young, once again. Only this time, she said, “I’m thankful to live in a state that respects and sanctions my relationship.”

 

Iris Dimmick is managing editor of the Rivard Report. Follow her on Twitter @viviris or contact her at iris@rivardreport.com.

 

16 thoughts on “Gay Marriage: Is Texas Postponing the Inevitable?

  1. The pie chart above gives me great hope for this state and the nation as a whole. I have found that individuals who are willing to accept civil unions are already very close to accepting same sex marriage as a right. All the work is already done as far as convincing them that same sex couples deserve legal recognition of their relationships just as opposite sex couples, and so all that is left is shedding a light on the true purpose of marriage equality.

    I stand by my assertion though, that just as with Loving V. Virginian and Lawrence V. Texas, same sex marriage will be won for all Americans through the courts and my guess is that it will happen within the next 4 years.

  2. Gay rights are human rights. In a nation based on laws, the law should apply to all people regardless of religious perspective, and civil protections should apply equally. In a nation that claims a commitment to freedom, laws should not impinge on behaviors that cause no harm. As I wrote in a blogpost in May (http://wp.me/pz5pc-4I), we simply must divorce marriage from religion. The civil laws regulating marriage are subject to equal protection. Churches should follow their own moral code – no one is trying to force a church that condemns homosexuality to provide a religious marriage ceremony to same-sex couples. But the law is public, and should apply to everyone equally. Separation of church and state – it’s as American as apple pie.

  3. The civil rights of American citizens are important, and we all benefit when governments create laws to protect those rights. However, members of our citizenry who choose to live and lead a LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) life should not be placed on equal footing with members of a minority ethnic, religious or physically impaired group (in claiming civil rights protection). The fact remains that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer life is a choice, and action by a member of our citizenry to follow the LGBTQ life comes with consequences, one of which is the forfeiture of the protection of the law as it pertains to marriage. Members of the citizenry of this state who choose to marry, and who follow a life opposite of the LGBTQ community enjoys the benefits of the law, and its protection. In this state (and country), marriage is defined between a man and a woman, and this directive should not change. The main reason, of course, is the propagation of the human race. If one chooses the LGBTQ life, fine. But please, leave our marriage laws alone.

    • Two points here Chris.

      A: The science has proven without a doubt that sexual identity is often determined by nature, not nurture. The evidence for this is widely available. Your initial premiss is false.

      B: The Constitution protects individuals who make the choice to become religious. It protects individuals who make the choice to get married as well. Your other premiss, that the constitution should not enforce equality for issues relating to choice, is also false.

      • Sorry, Eric.

        Science has NOT “proven without a doubt that sexual identity is often (often?!) determined by nature,” any more than science has proven so many other things it loves to claim as absolute.

        That being said, I do believe the war has already been won; there are simply a few more battles left to fight. The ultimate issue won’t revolve around “civil rights” either, but will be based upon Full Faith and Credit.

        By the way: considering your point ‘B’, have you reached a comfort level yet concerning the limits (if any) of “choice”? As an amateur historian, I’m just wondering what the next stage of our society’s collective “progress” might be.

        Garl B. Latham

    • Chris:
      I obviously disagree. I think what is most offensive (believe me, it’s hard to pick) is that you refer to marriage laws – which govern all citizens – as “our” marriage laws. This is not an ‘us vs. them’ situation (it rarely is) – we are all citizens, they are everyone’s marriage laws.

      Erik:
      Thank you.

      • Iris:
        You are welcome, and great article.

        And lets us not forget who was on this land before us. Many Native American tribes recognized the obvious facts of alternative gender identity, choosing to welcome the diversity it brought rather than respond with scorn as so many Christian cultures have. Same sex unions in many tribes were considered holy and treated with the utmost respect and acceptance.

        Before the spread of Christianity, the Greek and Roman cultures accepted homosexuality and homosexual unions.

        Current hetero-centric thoughts on marriage are the ones that were imposed on others. Not the other way around.

        • Eric,

          “Hetero-centric”? Oh, well…I guess it’s no more outrageous than my use of the term “autocentric”!

          Maybe I need to start a collection. Just yesterday, I read a column where the phrase “gender-normative standards” was used – without a trace of irony.

          You know what’ll really give you a turn? Waking up one morning with the distinct feeling you may have lived too long!

          Take care,
          Garl

          P.S. I understand the argument against Biblical standards being used to define marriage; still, according to God’s word, those “hetero-centric thoughts” were actually the ones in place from the beginning. [ref. Genesis 1:27; 2:23-25; 5:2; Matthew 19:4-6]

          G.B.L.

  4. The government should get out of the marriage business all together. Married couples do not need state approved benefits and such. Marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman.

  5. Texas will never be a gay & lesbian state and I thank God for that. To each thier own but I don’t want to be around it. If it became legal every where, then it would infringe upon christian lives, in that we would never be able to get away from it. Do what you want but don’t try and shove your lifestyle and sins in front of the ones that believe in the bible. And yes everybody has sinned but we don’t ask that you make our sins legal and that is what you are wanting us to do for you. I will never say that it is okay to do something that God condemns and I don’t care if the whole world jumped off that mountain, I will not say that you are right and God is wrong. But if you want to sin, go ahead, as that is between you and God. Just don’t ask us to help you try and justify it by asking us to make it legal. That is asking us all to go against God’s words and you should not be trying to make anyone turn against God.

  6. Holymosy, I won’t “try and shove your lifestyle and sins in front of the ones that believe in the bible” if you and your Bible-believing friends won’t shove your lifestyle and dogma in front of alllll the rest of us who don’t care that much what is in the Bible.

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