Doh: Fumbled 2005 anti-gay amendment may ban all marriage in Texas

A conservative group wrote a constitutional amendment in Texas in 2005 meant to be so broad that it would ban gay people from any kind of unions that would grant them benefits– no marriage, no civil unions, no domestic partnerships, nothing! So feverishly sweeping was the bill it ended by banning marriage altogether in the state. At least that’s what powerhouse attorney Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, told McClatchy reporters.

“You don’t have to have a fancy law degree to read this and understand what it plainly says,” said Radnofsky, who points readers to Subsection B:

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

gay couple

Radnofsky, who kicked off her campaign yesterday, calls the wording of the amendment a massive mistake that “effectively eliminates marriage in Texas,” including common-law marriages.

Kelly Shackelford, president of the conservative Liberty Legal Institute in Plano, Texas, dismissed Radnofsky’s claim.

“It’s a silly argument,” said Shackelford, any lawsuit based on Subsection B would have “about one chance in a trillion” of being successful.

Colorado has endured more than its share of vaguely written, overreaching, unvetted, highly political ballot initiative amendments in the last decade, so this portion of the McCaltchy report detailing the future court battles that will spin out of the Texas amendment will sound familiar to Colorado readers:

Radnofsky acknowledged that the clause is not likely to result in an overnight dismantling of marriages in Texas. But she said the wording opens the door to legal claims involving spousal rights, insurance claims, inheritance and a host other marriage-related issues.

“This breeds unneeded arguments, lawsuits and expense which could have been avoided by good lawyering,” Radnofsky said. “Yes, I believe the clear language of B bans all marriages, and this is indeed a huge mistake.”

In October, Dallas District Judge Tena Callahan ruled that the same-sex-marriage ban is unconstitutional because it stands in the way of gay divorce. Abbott is appealing the ruling, which came in a divorce petition involving two men who were married in Massachusetts in 2006.

At least (this time) it’s not your amendment!

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About the Author

John Tomasic

Writer, editor, teacher, web wrangler. He has worked for art, business, culture, politics publications, five universities and a UN war crimes commission. @johntomasic | 720-432-2128 |

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