In Texas, grandstanding politicians are picking on a couple of middle-aged women because those two longtime partners want to get married before one of them dies of cancer. Apparently, this is how Texans prove they are big and tough.
On Tuesday in Austin, Republican elected officials joined with representatives of the conservative Texas Values coalition to slice into a symbolic wedding cake. They were celebrating the 10-year anniversary of a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as solely the union of a man and a woman.
This little party followed last week's marriage celebration of Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, an Austin couple with two adopted daughters. The lesbian pair have been together for three decades but were unable to make their bond official until a federal court declared the Texas marriage amendment unconstitutional. The same court put a stay on the ruling, pending appeal, but a state court took the opportunity to compel the Travis County clerk to issue a marriage license to Goodfriend and Bryant, citing Goodfriend's struggle with ovarian cancer as an urgent situation that needed to be accommodated, even if the marriage issue is still being adjudicated in the courts.
Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton, a Republican, moved quickly to obtain a ruling from the state Supreme Court to stop any other jurisdiction from letting same-sex couples slip through loopholes in the law. In a statement issued by his office, Paxton said: "The law of Texas has not changed, and will not change due to the whims of any individual judge or county clerk operating on their own capacity anywhere in Texas. Activist judges don't change Texas law."
With the law in flux and conflicting court rulings flying like bullets at the Alamo, there is reasonable doubt that Goodfriend and Bryant's marriage is actually legal. But if Goodfriend ends up in a hospital again, maybe the disputed marriage license will be good enough to allow Bryant to stay by her partner's bedside should her condition take a fatal turn.
Texans are waiting to see whether Paxton or Republican Gov. Greg Abbott will let the issue play out in the courts or whether they will come after the couple to have their marriage license revoked. Taking that kind of step would strike some as awfully mean-spirited. Do any politicians really want to be seen picking on a sick woman and her family? In most places, no, but in Texas, maybe they would.
Paxton and Abbott have to know they have about as much chance at beating the odds as William Barret Travis and Davy Crockett had when they were surrounded by Santa Ana's army. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on same-sex marriage this year, and most court observers expect the justices to declare that all Americans, gay and straight, have the right to marry whomever they love. But until that ruling comes, Texas Republicans can solidify their standing with the religious conservatives who dominate their party by taking a tough stand and loudly decrying liberals and other perverts who want to mess with traditional marriage.
As his conservative allies passed out pieces of faux wedding cake at the Texas Values gathering, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gave a speech in which he called on Christians in the Lone Star State to keep fighting.
"It's a battle," Patrick said, "but we will be victorious because, with God, who can be against us? We know how it all ends."