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Voters nix same-sex marriage

Nov. 9, 2005

by TIFFANIE BLACKMON, staff writer

Texas became the 19th state to ban gay marriage after results were tabulated from Tuesday's nine amendments on the election ballot.

With 50 percent of precincts reporting, 76 percent, or 1,010,260 voters, favored the ban while 24 percent, or 312,767, opposed it.

With 100 percent of McLennan County votes counted, local voters were nearly 81 percent in favor of Proposition 2, the amendment to block gay marriage.

Henry Chan | Lariat staff
Pilot Point sophomore Justus Carlile enters the Wiethorn Visitors Center to cast his vote Tuesday afternoon.

"The nature of marriage has been recognized by diverse religions and cultures throughout human history," said Francis J. Beckwith, associate professor and associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies. "Even cultures and religions that allow polygamy recognize that it is the 'wedding' of complementary genders that is necessary for marriage."

Proposition 2 gained enough attention to overshadow the other eight amendments up for legislation on the ballot.

Rail relocation and improvement funding, economic development programs as issues of debt, bail allowance for criminal defendants and rates of interest for commercial loans were also included in Tuesday's ballot. The addition of another public member to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, line of credit advances for reverse mortgages, land title clearance in two Texas counties and terms for board members of a regional mobility authority in the state were also on the ballot.

"I felt it was important for me to come out and vote because I have strong feelings about the issues in Proposition 2," said Tara Shields, a senior from The Woodlands. "Aside from my personal feelings about gay marriage, I don't feel it should be an amendment."

In September 2004, Louisiana voted to approve a state amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions, by a marginal amount.

Like Texas, before the same-sex marriage amendment's approval, Louisiana's state law recognized lawful marriage as existing between "only one man and one woman."

Louisiana held the vote to prevent it the law from being overturned in courts as an act of discrimination.

"Proposition 2 is a proposed amendment to the Texas constitution to ensure marriage remains between one man and one woman," said Brian Serr, a Baylor Law School professor whose areas of expertise include civil rights litigation, constitutional law and First Amendment issues.

"There is already legislation in Texas involving the issue of the prohibition of same sex marriages," Serr said.

In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act declared marriage as existing only between one man and one woman, prohibiting federal recognition of homosexual unions of marriage and allowing a state the right to ignore a same-sex marriage formed outside of the state.

In 2003, Texas' legislature passed a state ruling upholding the Defense of Marriage Act in which it would not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions formed within or outside the state.

"I believe in marriage as being one man and one woman," said Kelly Tetens, a Baylor alumna from Plano. "I thought it important as a Christian and as a conservative in the state of Texas to voice my opinion about that."

Beckwith said the definition of marriage is "based on an understanding of the nature of men and women, long held and defended by a wide range of thinkers in virtually every moral, religious, and philosophical tradition."

He said people don't define marriage, they recognize it. "So, the real question is what marriage really is," Beckwith said.

Tetens' husband, Josh, a Baylor alumnus from Arlington, felt his vote was necessary because the judiciary interpretation of laws, more so the creation of them, was important to establish a definition of marriage for the constitution.

"With the power the constitution has over a statute, the definition is stronger than the statute which binds the judiciary to follow it," he said.

Regardless of voters' personal feelings on the issue of homosexuality and marriage, the wording of the amendment was important to several people at the ballots.

"The amendment was very poorly worded," Shields said.

Some have said the amendment would affect the union of a man and a woman as well as same-sex couples, as well as end-of-life decisions.

Regardless of which way the voting ballots leaned after Nov 8, votes would have more affect on the other eight issues of the ballot than Proposition 2.

"If the amendment passes, there will be no same-sex marriage in Texas," Serr said. "And if it doesn't pass, there will still be no same-sex unions in Texas because of already present legislation which prohibits that."

Serr said Proposition 2 only prevented existing state legislation from being ruled unconstitutional.

"The Texas Supreme Court is popularly elected and it is very unlikely they will do something as unpopular in a conservative state like Texas to find unconstitutional the current legislation," Serr said.

"Which is why people who support Proposition 2 see it as no more than political grandstanding, taking attention away from more pressing state issues like school finance," Serr said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.