Did Texas Ban All Marriages?

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | November 20, 2009 11:39 am

It reads like an Onion piece or maybe something John Oliver would ‘report on’, but this story’s no joke… Lawmakers in the Lone Star State may have taken their efforts to prohibit same-sex marriages too far–for everyone.

Texas’ gay marriage ban may have banned all marriages
By Dave Montgomery
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

AUSTIN — Texans: Are you really married?

Maybe not.

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, says that a 22-word clause in a 2005 constitutional amendment designed to ban gay marriages erroneously endangers the legal status of all marriages in the state.

The amendment, approved by the Legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by voters, declares that “marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” But the troublemaking phrase, as Radnofsky sees it, is Subsection B, which declares:

“This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”

No, we’re not likely to see the dismantling of marriages across Texas, but according to Radnofsky, the clear language of Subsection B brings up legal questions about spousal rights, insurance claims, inheritance, and more. Go read the full article here.


Comments (16)

  1. Jason

    “Similar” to marriage. Ugh, that’s some fine legal language there.

  2. Pete

    Those Texas politicians never cease to surprise me.

  3. Jean

    What they’ve overlooked, of course, is that marriage is a legal status identical to or similar to marriage. Amazing how people forget that A = A. Hope my TX marriage license is worth something.

  4. Joe Bogus

    Consider that our former Moron in Chief was the govn’r of Texas before destroying America, is it any wonder that the congress_critters making laws are even less enabled? If you want to see some REAL stupidity at work, drop in on the Board of Education hearings. They want to take Neil Armstrong out the science books and put in Intelligent Design!

  5. Michael

    “Consider that our former Moron in Chief was the govn’r of Texas before destroying America, is it any wonder that the congress_critters making laws are even less enabled? If you want to see some REAL stupidity at work, drop in on the Board of Education hearings. They want to take Neil Armstrong out the science books and put in Intelligent Design!”

    Well, wasn’t that venting constructive…no wonder we have difficulty convincing people that those that believe in the scientific method are rational creatures simply looking for the truth.

    Once you become an intellectual slave to ANY political party or dogma, your rationality dies, and along with it your objectivity. This sort of mindless ranting is not the least helpful.

    And we wonder why we have trouble teaching science to students and the public.

  6. Woody Tanaka

    This is amusing, but legally nothing. The touchstone in legal interpretation is the intent of the Legislature and voters. In this case, the language is ambiguous, but there can be no reasonable doubt that the intent was not to ban heterosexual marriage.

  7. Justice Scalia, among others, looks very negatively on any attempt to determine the intent of the legislature when analyzing statutes. I’d guess his school of legal thought is popular in Texas, though I would be shocked if they didn’t make an exception here.

  8. Jeff

    They were worried gay marriage would destroy straight marriages.

    It’s hilarious that their fear was a self-fulfilling one.

  9. I’m pretty sure what the geniuses in Texas meant was that there would only be a single marriage in the state of Texas. I just wonder whom the lucky couple is.

  10. Oh, this is funny… and on a topic there is not much to laugh about. Too bad there will be no real lesson learned here about legislating human commitment.

    Dale Moore’s comment above really made me laugh too.

  11. Paul W.

    Woody’s right.

    Even Scalia would decide this one correctly, even if he weren’t a flaming hypocrite. (Which he is.)

    There’s clearly an ambiguity in the phrasing, not a clear error.

    People often use “similar to” to mean “similar to but not exactly the same as,” and that’s clearly what the Lege has done here, bless their pointy little heads.

    I doubt a suit based on the “strict” interpretation would get past a first glance by any judge in the country. No way it would get to trial.

  12. Paul W.


    As a Texan, I have to point out that however appalling our legislature and State Board of Education are—and yes indeedy, they are thoroughly apalling—Texas isn’t quite as backward as it seems from the outside.

    For example, an out lesbian has made it to the runoff for mayor of Houston, and for most people, her homosexuality isn’t much of an issue.

    Naturally, there’s a substantial vocal minority that’s rabidly against her, but sadly, that would be true most places in the country.

    And if she does manage to win, the most populous city in Texas will be the first major city anywhere in the U.S. to elect an out lesbian mayor. We’re not talking about Austin, remember, but Houston.

    Not too shabby.

    Even if she loses, I hope we get partial credit for having a plurality of non-morons.

  13. Texas isn’t quite as backward as it seems from the outside.

    Agreed. My hope is that Texas will lead in taking on the energy problem. There are opportunities down there to pave the way for the rest of the planet.

  14. Paul W.

    Oh, and on the general topic of right wing insanity…

    Apparently 52 percent of Republicans think that Obama is not the legitimate president of the United States, because Acorn stole the election for him with fraudulent votes.

    This despite the fact that Acorn registered under a million voters, and Obama won by about 10 times that.

    Creepily, about 1 in 8 Democrats either think Obama lost, or don’t know. Holy cow.


  15. I live in Texas. And guess what it is a whole lot more backward than a normal person could ever imagine. Of course just about everything that is wrong with our politcal system today can be attributed to Texas politicians. Bush was from Texas.

    San Antonio Computer Repair


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.


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