orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Government

April 17, 2013

Texas Senate committee votes to repeal ant-gay law

AUSTIN, Texas —

 The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted on Wednesday to repeal the state's anti-gay sodomy law, a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.

Texas, along with Oklahoma and Kansas, will be the only states that still have the law on the books after Montana's legislature approved its repeal of the measure and the governor pledged to sign it.

Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, authored the bill and said the state was long overdue in taking the measure off the books and that it created confusion among law enforcement.

"This defunct law was the grounds for police to harass patrons of restaurants in my district resulting in a suit against the city of El Paso," he said, describing a 2009 incident where police arrested a same-sex couple for kissing. "Not only is the continued existence of this law on the books a source of misinformation to law enforcement, but in my own district local governments have been forced to spend their limited resources due to this misuse."

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said he tried to get the law repealed in 1993, but conservatives in the Texas House blocked the attempt.

"All you're doing is following court rulings and taking unconstitutional language off the books," he said.

The State Bar of Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union and the pro-gay rights group Equality Texas supported the bill. No one registered with the committee to oppose it and it passed 5-0. The bill was sent to the full Senate for a vote.

The Legislature outlawed homosexual activity in 1973, but when a Houston man was charged with sodomy he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court declared the law unconstitutional in a landmark ruling that overturned all of the nation's sodomy laws.

Democrats have also proposed a new law that would make discriminating against gays for employment illegal, but that measure is unlikely to pass due to conservative opposition.

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