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DOMA, Prop 8 Rulings Bittersweet for Local LGBT Community

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Calling on Governor Rick Perry to add marriage equality to the special session – a long shot – Burnam alluded to the fight over abortion legislation, saying, “Clearly granting equal rights to all Texans is more urgent than imposing restrictions on women’s health and liberty based on junk science and sham medical research.”

And while Lawrence v. Texas – a similarly historic Supreme Court decision made 10 years ago – marked the end of the illegality of sexual activity among same-sex couples, the red state still keeps the archaic rule in its books. The only way to officially erase it from the penal code is through a constitutional amendment, another legislative attempt that continually fails to pass during session.

Despite the landscape, Smith is hopeful in the long run. In a poll commissioned this year by Equality Texas, the largest increase showed up in results for those who support same-sex marriage – 47.9 percent of respondents were in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, a 5.2 percent increase since 2010.

And the recent decision adds to Smith’s optimism, “While the ruling doesn’t set precedent that can be applied in the state, the Supreme Court showed us there is no rational basis to treat gay people differently.” He’s confident that lawmakers “on the right side of history” will continue to file bills to tear down Prop 2 until it’s successful, he says. 

Celebrating the national victory with her 10-year-old son and partner of a decade, CAUSA Co-Chair Dee Dee Belmares called the moment “exciting” but asked rhetorically, “what about the other 37 states?”

“It’s only a matter of time that all states recognize equality, but it’s going to take some time, especially in a state as conservative as Texas,” said Belmares. “When it could happen? We’re not sure, but there will definitely be a fight for it.”

Echoing fellow activists in the LGBT community, Jennifer Falcon, organizer of GetEqual Texas in San Antonio said her organization celebrates with the 12 states that this will effect, but also stresses, “we have a long way to go.” The gains are historic but the city and state battle for similar progress still wages, she said.

“While it’s a big victory, we have a lot more road ahead of us,” said Falcon.

“And we must remember, LGBT equality is more than just marriage,” she added, pointing to the 29 states, including Texas, that still fail to include non-discrimination job protection laws for the LGBT community.

Smith agrees. Before Texas can set its sights squarely on gaining marital equality, the state has to focus on securing non-discrimination rules. “All states that have the freedom to marry started with enacting employment discrimination laws. It’s the first step on the road to freedom to marry,” says Smith.

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