Gay rights activists in Texas have expressed hopes that they can use the changing tide in American public opinion to push for legalizing same-sex marriage in the state, but conservatives have expressed confidence that the traditional institution will be preserved.
"Whether it takes the form of a domestic partnership registry or civil unions or something else, we are going to start working here in the Legislature to build capacity in this body so that we will have success, whether it's this session or a future session," said Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), pushing for new laws that will seek to legalize same-sex marriage in a southern state for the first time, Dallas News reported.
Texas does not currently allow either same-sex marriages or civil unions, and has held form in its conservative principles that define marriage strictly as between a man and a woman. The state Legislature is also dominated by conservative Republicans, and the Texas constitution prohibits "creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage," including civil unions.
Gay marriage advocates are hoping that their latest victories in more liberal northern states are a sign that the tide on opinions on same-sex marriage in America is turning. Most recently, on Valentine's Day, the Illinois Senate voted to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, which would make it the 10th state in the nation, along with the District of Columbia, to change its laws regarding traditional marriage.
On the same day, Fort Worth Democratic Rep. Lon Burnam introduced a bill that seeks to defeat Texas' Defense of Marriage Act and the ban on same-sex marriage, which was approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2005.
Conservatives are confident that support for traditional marriage in Texas will hold in the coming years despite these efforts, noting the strong social conservative values of the region.
"Different parts of the country certainly have different opinions, and those opinions are evolving," argued Rep. Brandon Creighton of Conroe, the House Republican Caucus chairman. "But it's very clear in our state's history that fundamentally protecting the institution between a man and a woman … is something that widely resonates with Texans."
Republicans hold the majority of seats in both the Texas House and Senate, and given that a two-third majority is needed for any law to pass, it is unlikely that gay marriage advocates will have their way any time soon, Dallas News noted.
Still, those seeking to change the traditional definition of marriage will be hoping President Barack Obama's profession that he supports gay marriage, which he made last May, will be enough to restart the discussion in Texas and force the public and politicians to take a closer look at the issue once again.
"People are entitled to it if they want to have the discussion, but it is not going to happen," commented Jonathan Saenz, president of pro-family group Texas Values. "The numbers aren't there in the [Texas] House or the Senate."