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Texas House passes bill to protect pastors who refuse to marry gay couples

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A bill clarifying that clergy members have the right to refuse to conduct marriages violating their beliefs tentatively passed the Texas House 141-2 Thursday.

Critics argue the so-called Pastor Protection Act, Senate Bill 2065, is aimed at making it tougher for same-sex couples to marry in Texas, should the U.S. Supreme Court legalize gay marriages. The bill’s author, state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, has said the bill is about protecting pastors “who have a strong religious belief ” against same-sex marriage.

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The bill passed out of the Senate earlier this month on a 21-10 vote, with one Democrat joining Republicans in support.

Yet most Democrats in the Texas House voted for the bill, and made it clear Thursday that they believe the measure protects religious institutions supporting gay marriage as well as those that oppose it.

“I truly believe that there is space for LGBT justice and religious freedom and this, I feel, is the space for that,” said state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint, who has called herself the only openly pan-sexual elected official in the nation.

State Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said in a speech supporting the bill that she will one day marry her longtime lesbian partner in Texas. Pastors that don’t support their union shouldn’t worry about her trying to get them to conduct the ceremony, she said. SB 2065, Israel argued, would ensure that a clergy member that wants to support the ceremony can.

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“This Roman Catholic urges you to vote yes,” Israel said.

Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Equality Texas withdrew its opposition to the measure and encouraged House Democrats to vote for it.

The bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, described the bill as “a shield and not a sword” and noted that it did not change “the role of state government in issuing marriage licenses.”

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State Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, said the bill was about protecting pastors who feared what may happen in the future related to marriage and the law.

“Maybe pastors won’t be sued but we need some protection in case they are,” Harless said.

The two “no” votes on the bill were state Reps. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Armando Walle, D-Houston.

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During the House debate, Canales asked Sanford about what situation the bill was trying to prevent, as he was not aware of a situation in which a religious clergy member has been prosecuted for not marrying a couple.

“I don’t think you should force somebody to marry anybody,” Canales said.

If the bill receives final approval in the House, it will go to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Abbott has indicated he will sign the bill.

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By Aman Batheja, The Texas Tribune


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Bill Maher rips Trump and ‘the gang that couldn’t do treason straight’ on Real Time

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HBO "Real Time" host Bill Maher ripped the incompetence of the Trump administration after acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney confessed that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine in Rudy Giuliani's search for foreign election assistance.

"It's not just that he's always breaking the law, it's that he obviously wants you to know about it," Maher said. "The Joker doesn't want to get caught this bad."

"This is Trump's definition of three-dimensional chess, 'I'm going to distract you from impeaching me by committing more crimes," he said.

"It's like he comes home and Melania says to him, 'you have lipstick on your color,' and he says, 'you should see my d*ck,'" Maher said.

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‘Stand with Hong Kong’ shirts fill the stands at Nets game as NBA is protested for China subservience

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The National Basketball Association was protested on Friday for bowing to pressure from China.

The NBA has been harshly criticized for standing by the oppressive regime instead of standing in solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

"Producer and activist Andrew Duncan bought 300 tickets to tonight's Nets vs Raptors game and is hosting hundreds of Chinese pro-Democracy activists to protest the NBA," New York magazine correspondent Yashar Ali reported Friday. "They're all wearing 'Stand With Hong Kong' T-shirts."

Photos from the protest:

1. Producer and activist Andrew Duncan bought 300 tickets to tonight's Nets vs Raptors game and is hosting hundreds of Chinese pro-Democracy activists to protest the NBA.

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Trump polling close friends over whether he should fire Mulvaney: report

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President Donald Trump is considering firing Mick Mulvaney, his acting White House chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget, The Atlantic reported Friday.

"Mick Mulvaney's job was in danger even before his disastrous press conference yesterday, and his equally disastrous attempt to walk that performance back," The Atlantic reported. "The fumble could not have been more poorly timed: According to multiple current and former White House officials, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to relay private conversations, Trump has been steadily souring on Mulvaney for weeks."

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