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Monday, February 14, 2011

Same-sex couples plan Valentine's Day push for marriage equality

They know they'll go home empty-handed, even if it is Valentine's Day, but same-sex couples nationwide, including in Texas, plan to make a political statement today by seeking marriage licenses at county clerks' offices.
"Marriage is a civil right, not a heterosexual privilege," said Tiffani Bishop of Austin, who is active in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
She and others hope to draw attention to the fact that most states still ban same-sex couples from legally marrying. Texas law defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
Same-sex couples also plan to participate in rallies, gay wedding celebrations, protests and more as part of the annual February Freedom to Marry month activities. No events are planned in North Texas, organizers say.
"There are an estimated 17,444 children being raised by same-sex couples in Texas," said Michael Diviesti, state coordinator for GetEQUAL TX, an Austin-based nonprofit geared to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. "Texas politicians claim to want to protect my fellow Texans and their families.
"Instead they have fought and so far succeeded in placing restrictions on these [same-sex couple] families that ensure that they have few if any of the protections given to children raised in heterosexual households."
Texas Eagle Forum President Pat Carlson of Fort Worth said she doesn't support the movement.
"There is a continual effort by the homosexual community to push their agenda on the rest of us," said Carlson, whose group advocates for socially conservative causes. "The bottom line is they are trying to destroy traditional marriage as we know it in the country and make their lifestyle the norm.
"They make it seem that anybody who has a problem with it is homophobic."
Seeking licenses
One of the Valentine's Day celebrations planned today is in Austin, where people will rally for marriage equality outside the Travis County clerk's office at 4 p.m. as same-sex couples inside ask for marriage licenses.
"The time has come to press the issue of marriage equality," said Dana Cloud, a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of Queer Texas United. "LGBTQ persons live and love like anyone else and deserve the benefits, both material and emotional, of the right to marry."
No events are planned in Fort Worth, but local officials are prepared for the possibility that same-sex couples may ask today for a marriage license.
Tarrant County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia said couples seeking a marriage license must show identification and fill out paperwork that identifies their sex.
In Texas, the Family Code says a marriage license may be issued only to a man and a woman. And in 2005, Texans approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex civil unions and marriages.
"It's very clear ... that we cannot issue a marriage license except between a man and a woman," Garcia said. "We've handled it before.
"We've had maybe eight couples come in over the past few years who applied," she said. "We tell them that, by law, we cannot issue it. We follow the law."
Marriage in Texas
The debate over same-sex marriage and same-sex divorce has been in the spotlight in Texas as two same-sex couples who married in Massachusetts have gone to court to dissolve their unions here.
Last year, a Travis County judge granted a divorce to Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, who were married in 2004 and share custody of an adopted child. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sought to intervene after the ruling, but the judge didn't consider Abbott's request because it was filed too late.
Abbott appealed and last month, the 3rd Texas Court of Appeals in Austin said Abbott didn't have the standing to appeal the divorce because the state wasn't a party of record in the case.
The second case had a different result.
In Dallas, a man identified as J.B. filed for divorce in 2009 from H.B., whom he had married in 2006. A ruling by a Dallas judge questioned whether the gay-marriage ban in Texas is legal, prompting Abbott to intervene and appeal the ruling. The 5th Texas Court of Appeals in Dallas ruled in the case last year that gay couples married in other states can't divorce in Texas.
"It's a shame that in 2011, we are still fighting for civil rights," Diviesti said.


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