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Supreme Court and Texas considering same-sex law changes

Texas voters overwhelmingly backed a statewide ban on same-gender civil unions and marriages eight years ago. Some state lawmakers are willing to bet that voters have had a change of heart about family law since the 2005 decision.

Two pieces of legislation were proposed in the last few weeks, one legal issue hinging on the success of the first proposal. Two state representatives co-sponsored a bill that would lift the ban on recognition of same-sex relationships. The second proposal would permit same-sex civil unions in Texas.

Seventy-six percent of voting Texans approved a legal same-gender relationship ban in the first vote. Since then, other states have moved to accept or recognize legal relationships between same-sex partners.

A survey conducted last fall by the Texas Tribune and the University of Texas indicated that voters had been influenced positively by pro-gay and lesbian legislation throughout the country. One-third of respondents approved of civil unions. Thirty-six percent supported same-gender marriages. Twenty-five percent of those surveyed in 2012 opposed gay and lesbian civil unions and marriages.

A previous poll taken in early 2010 had noticeably different results than the last survey. Then, 30 percent of respondents disapproved of legal same-gender relationships and 63 percent approved. In just over two years, support for recognizing same-sex civil unions or marriages jumped six percentage points, from 63 to 69 percent.

The introduction of the Texas legislation for same-sex rights coincides with closely connected cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In March, the high court will hear arguments for and against the abolition of the Defense of Marriage Act - the federal definition of marriage that includes only members of the opposite sex.

Justices may open the legal doors for same-sex couples, giving them the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples during marriage and divorce. The Supreme Court is also expected to decide whether states keep the power to make family laws permitting legal same-sex relationships.

Same-sex couples in Texas may want to pay close attention to the status of the proposed bills and Supreme Court cases as the results could significantly impact same-sex couples' legal matters.

Source: Monitor, "Same-sex civil unions in Texas? McAllen Dem's bill could pave the way," Jared Janes, Feb. 12, 2013

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