Late last night a committee of the Texas House took public comments about Rep Cecil Bell’s bill that would forbid county clerks from issuing any marriage licenses, putting that duty in the sole hands of the secretary of state. The bill further bans the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses by any state employee, no matter how the Supreme Court might rule. As those of you here witnessed via the live-stream, there were some beautiful, moving testimonies from the parents of gay children as well as the usual illogical bleating from representatives of hate groups.
Members of the committee grilled Bell at some length about the financial aspects of the bill, which would cost the state an estimated $1.6M in the first year and $1M annually thereafter. Via the Texas Tribune:
The bill’s pricey fiscal note, prepared by the Legislative Budget Board, includes salaries for 18 full-time employees who would be required to issue marriage licenses. Texas counties issued 185,510 marriage license applications and declarations of informal marriage in 2013. No vote on the bill was taken, and Bell told the committee he intended to present a revised version that will address the fiscal impact. Geren said he would also like Bell to address the local impact on individual counties. “The fiscal note says there’s no local impact. My [county clerk] disagrees with that, and I think the testimony here shows several clerks disagree with that,” Geren told Bell. “I think there is a local impact in the millions of dollars, and I don’t know how we address that, but I hope that you will in the substitute that you’re working on. Turner seemed less interested in considering Bell’s bill substitute, saying the measure would create “chaos and confusion.” When Bell reiterated he would present a bill substitute, Turner responded, “I don’t care how much lipstick you put on it.”
Bell has introduced three other anti-gay bills and those have not yet been heard. Only four Democrats sit on the 12-member House State Affairs Committee. Same-sex marriage is already banned by Texas statute and by the state constitution, so Bell’s action represents a triple ban.