Turns out bigotry has a price tag.
House Bill 1745, by Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia), seeks to bar Texas officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples or recognizing their marriages—regardless of whether courts determine the state’s ban is unconstitutional.
More than a dozen witnesses gave nearly two hours of sometimes emotional testimony during a hearing on the bill—also known as “the Preservation of Marriage and Sovereignty Act”—before the House Committee on State Affairs. They debated the “biblical” definition of marriage, religious freedom and the principles of U.S. government, such as states’ rights, federalism and checks and balances.
However, the bill’s fate may ultimately hinge on something far more simple: dollars and cents.
HB 1745 would shift authority over marriage licenses from county clerks to the secretary of state, prompting a representative from the County and District Clerks’ Association of Texas to testify against it.
“The fiscal impact of that would be devastating to counties who are already struggling to balance their budgets,” said Teresa Kiel, legislative chair for the association and Guadalupe County clerk.
See here for the background. Bell filed his bill after the Travis County Clerk issued a marriage license to two women in response to a district judge’s order. That matter is still being litigated, not that that stopped the likes of rep. Bell.
The Trib goes into more detail.
During the committee hearing, state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, questioned the bill’s effect on government employees if the nation’s highest court does legalize same-sex marriage.
“Am I hearing you all to say that the state of Texas, county employees and others be given the right to disregard the United States Supreme Court ruling?” Turner said.
Under Bell’s measure, the secretary of state would be the sole issuer of marriage licenses and could contract out to county clerk’s office. State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, expressed some anxiety about leaving this up to the secretary of state’s office.
Members of the committee were also wary about the bill’s cost to the state — an estimated $1.4 million in fiscal year 2016 and $1 million every year thereafter. The bill’s pricey fiscal note, prepared by the Legislative Budget Board, includes salaries for 18 full-time employees who would be required to issue marriage licenses.
Texas counties issued 185,510 marriage license applications and declarations of informal marriage in 2013.
No vote on the bill was taken, and Bell told the committee he intended to present a revised version that will address the fiscal impact. Geren said he would also like Bell to address the local impact on individual counties.
“The fiscal note says there’s no local impact. My [county clerk] disagrees with that, and I think the testimony here shows several clerks disagree with that,” Geren told Bell. “I think there is a local impact in the millions of dollars, and I don’t know how we address that, but I hope that you will in the substitute that you’re working on.
Turner seemed less interested in considering Bell’s bill substitute, saying the measure would create “chaos and confusion.” When Bell reiterated he would present a bill substitute, Turner responded, “I don’t care how much lipstick you put on it.”
Amen to that. While I agree that there’s no prettifying this stinker up, I would point out that the financial hit counties would take is even bigger than the clerks testified. Not only would counties lose out on the funds they get now from straight marriages, they’d lose out on the economic bonus that same sex marriages would bring. Again, this bill and its Senate companion should be killed on their own lack of merit. But the ancillary issues matter, too. Trail Blazers has more.