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DOMA, Prop 8 Rulings Bittersweet for Local LGBT Community

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Last week, in a landmark 5-4 decision the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a significant part of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law barring same sex-marriage. Section 3, the key provision now ruled “unconstitutional,” had prevented the U.S. government from allowing gay and lesbian married couples to receive federal benefits. The court also refused to overturn the California Supreme Court’s ruling that Proposition 8, a measure that stopped California gay and lesbian couples from marrying, was unconstitutional.

The LGBT community celebrated the historic wins around the country, and San Antonio was no exception. At an impromptu gathering outside Bexar County Courthouse that drew an estimated 200 residents, members of the Community Alliance for a United San Antonio (CAUSA), Human Rights Campaign and GetEqual Texas reveled in the victory.

But the triumph brought on by the court’s opinion in United States v. Windsor also serves as bittersweet reminder for LGBT activists that the fight for equality – both locally and statewide – is far from over. With no citywide protections in place in San Antonio or statewide in Texas, LGBT couples here continue to be shut out of the ruling’s benefits.

“We are thrilled to see the federal government recognize lesbians and gays as deserving of equal protection under the constitution, but the ruling doesn’t directly change law in Texas,” said Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas. “Although, it will certainly be a momentum booster for the work already underway to bring the freedom to marry to Texas.”

That’s because Texas has it’s own version of DOMA in place. Proposition 2, added to the Texas constitution in 2005, limits marriage to one man and one woman. While efforts to dismantle it, including five bills filed this past Legislative session, have been attempted none have made much progress. Ahead of the recently called second special session, Democratic lawmaker Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) plans to keep pushing by reintroducing marriage equality legislation.

“The Supreme Court found today that the federal government acted to ‘impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages.’ I can assure you the Texas Legislature did the same. As such, it is time to renounce our homophobic state laws and usher in marriage equality in Texas,” said Rep. Burnam in a statement.

His initial bill, HB 1300, failed to make it out of committee; with a staunchly conservative governor at the helm, realistically its prospects this go around appear slim-to-none. Groups like GetEqual are heading efforts to lobby for the bill at the start of the second session, which begins July 1.

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