By Eva Ruth Moravec
AUSTIN — About 250 people gathered Monday afternoon at the Texas Capitol to rally in support of what they call “biblical marriage” — a union between a man and a woman — at an event headlined by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.
Moore, a gay marriage opponent, instructed Alabama’s state probate judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples despite a federal ruling that Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.
Texas has a similar ban that was approved by voters in 2005.
Moore encouraged lawmakers in attendance, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton, to stand up to the federal government. State courts have equal authority, he said.
“No court has authority to redefine what God proposed in Genesis,” Moore said, adding that the Bible defined marriage as between one man and one woman.
After the rally, Moore told a reporter for The Associated Press that he was in Austin to teach the law.
“I’m teaching that federal courts have no authority in this area,” he said.
The crowd, many of whom carried signs stating “I support Biblical marriage,” was mostly cordial. Several attendees got into arguments after the rally with gay marriage advocates.
Support was strong among attendees for the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act, a bill by Rep. Cecil Bell Jr., R-Magnolia. The proposal — scheduled for a hearing Wednesday — would prohibit state and local government employees from having to recognize or grant a marriage license “that violates a personal religious belief.”
Patrick, a Republican, said that traditional marriage is worth fighting for and thanked attendees for “standing for traditional marriage in the state of Texas.”
Paxton, also a Republican, said that Texans “could not have spoken more clearly on this issue.”
He said he’d continue to fend off federal government’s efforts to “ignore Texas’ right to define marriage.” Paxton successfully sought to have the Supreme Court of Texas block gay marriages after a lesbian couple in Austin was issued a court order for a marriage license last month. The move was prompted by a probate court judge’s ruling that Texas’ same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. No more same-sex marriage licenses have been issued since.
Last week, Paxton sued the U.S. Department of Labor over a proposal to extend family leave benefits to same-sex married couples.
Moore also called for Supreme Court of the United States Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse themselves from this summer’s arguments on same-sex marriage because they’ve officiated gay weddings.
Because he’d advised probate courts not to recognize gay marriage licenses, he said he abstained from an Alabama Supreme Court vote ordering judges to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
“I didn’t vote in my case, because I had expressed my opinion,” Moore said. “They should do the same thing.”
That sentiment was mimicked in another anti-gay-rights event at the Capitol on Monday morning, held by the Coalition of African American Pastors, which is circulating a petition to ask for the judges’ recusals.
But the group’s president, Rev. Bill Owens, said that what really boils his blood is the gay community’s claim “that they are rallying on the civil rights movement.”
“In other words,” Owens said, “they stole, they hijacked the civil rights movement.”
Steve Rudner, chair of the Equality Texas Foundation’s board of directors, said the two movements are different, but “everyone deserves equal rights.”
Rudner and his wife, Lisa, were among about 50 people who gathered at a church near the Capitol for lunch and an ice cream social before they lobbied lawmakers to support gay marriage. The couple has twin 16-year-old sons, one of whom is gay.
He called the two events opposing gay marriage “the last dying gasps of bigotry and prejudice.”