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Is "marriage" identical or similar to "marriage"?

If the answer is Yes, Texas may just have outlawed all marriages, not just gay marriage:

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."

Architects of the amendment included the clause to ban same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships. But Radnofsky, who was a member of the powerhouse Vinson & Elkins law firm in Houston for 27 years until retiring in 2006, says the wording of Subsection B effectively "eliminates marriage in Texas," including common-law marriages.

I bet I know why the Christianists who pushed this amendment used that wording, too: They think the FSM created marriage, so they don't want the state of TX doing it, too.


More pragmatically:

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.

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Submitted by hipparchia on

i've long thought we need to keep 'marriage' in the churches [or wherever] and make people [of whatever sex and number] get separate civil unions if they want the legal benefits. true separation of church and state here, leaving the definition of marriage to the religions, and moving the legal formulation of family groups to the legal sphere.

it would be so cool if texas led the way on this, even if accidentally.

illusionofjoy's picture
Submitted by illusionofjoy on

Really, my subject line says it all. Marriage is a religious institution. If you want to get married and your church won't let you, it should be time to switch churches.

Civil unions are the only thing the government should be involved in and they should be open to all who want them.

Bryan's picture
Submitted by Bryan on

The Pilgrim Fathers didn't recognize marriages performed by ministers for decades in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They viewed marriage as a partnership agreement in which religion played no part.

Legally, all a church does is witness the partnership agreement, which is why Notary Publics in Florida can perform marriages. You don't have to go to church or the town hall in Florida; you can stop by your local bank branch.

The plain meaning of that amendment is that marriage by any name is not recognized by the state of Texas. It only takes a judge who looks at the literal meaning of the law to create a major mess. Wait until there is a major will in probate that involves some old rich guy leaving all his money to his "trophy wife" and watch the battle begin.

Andre's picture
Submitted by Andre on

to call them civil unions? The legal 'entitlements' should derive from the relationships that people can prove exist, and a marriage certificate may be one form of proof, but not necessarily the only one. A joint checking account might be some major proof for claiming some legal financial entitlements, etc. If the state is getting out of the guaranteeing of marriage, then civil unions are just semantics, and they should get out of the whole concept, and leave it to the churches. In this town of 40 thousand, within one week after the the SJC legalized SS marriages, the Unitarian Universalist chuch here, with its three hundred plus year history, publicly stated that they would do same sex marriages. No equivocation on their part. At that point, that marriage certificate should have been some major proof of entitlement to pretty much all the legal benefits we now deny these couples.