In a 21-10 vote, the Texas Senate on Tuesday advanced a bill that would allow county clerks to decline to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if it conflicts with their religious beliefs, reports The Houston Chronicle.
“This provides a way for clerks to exercise their profoundly held religious beliefs under the First Amendment, and at the same time protect the rights of couples who are coming in for a marriage license,” said State Sen. Brian Birdwell, a Granbury Republican who authored the measure. “Right now, there is not an alternate mechanism for a clerk who is not willing to issue a license because of their sincerely held beliefs.”
Several Democrats worried that the new unnecessary law would trigger new discrimination against same-sex couples.
“I’m afraid we’re opening up a box of unintended consequences,” said Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio.
“If we don’t do this we are discriminating against those people of faith,” Birdwell replied. “This bill protects the constitutional issues for both sides.”
“My main concern here is that all the clerks and judges know about the law and are following the law,” said Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston.
Birdwell responded: “Without this, we’re saying that if you have strongly held religious beliefs, you are not welcome in public office.”