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Why One Texas Legislator Wants a Special Session On Marriage Equality

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News
Revelers rallied in downtown Austin Friday after SCOTUS legalized same-sex marriage. State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) says we should 'divorce marriage from government if we want to protect it.'

From Texas Standard:

Recent polls suggest the majority of Americans agree with the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, but opposition to same-sex marriage remains prevalent in southern states like Texas and Louisiana.

Just this week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that county clerks don’t need to issue marriage licenses if doing so goes against their faith. Paxton and other opponents of same-sex marriage argue that the government shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with how someone practices their faith.

Now one Texas State Representative is expanding on that argument — trying to get the government out of the business of issuing marriage licenses altogether, regardless of the couples' genders.

Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) is calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to convene a special session of the legislature to — as he puts it — “protect marriage from government.”

“Government marriage just really needs to go away,” Simpson tells the Texas Standard. “It’s cheapened it, it’s redefined it, it’s parceled it out for profit.” Simpson’s solution? “Let’s just get government and marriage separated from one another.”

However, many of the benefits that come with marriage — healthcare, social security, disability, adoption — require an official state recognition of marriage for the benefits to take effect. So how would Simpson’s plan affect eligibility for benefits for those families? “The state should — and can — continue to recognize marriage. What I’m saying is let’s end its issuance of marriage licenses,” he says. “Government didn’t create marriage. It should recognize it and protect it, but let’s just end it as the authorizer of marriage.”

Simpson argues that the issuance of a marriage license isn’t what makes a marriage official or special. “I’ve never shown my marriage license to anyone,” he says. “I’m not sure where it is.”

So what does Simpson think we should do in place of having county clerks issue marriage licenses?

“For people who don’t wish to have a religious ceremony, they could just present a certificate of their relationship formalizing it, and have it approved by a public notary,” he says. “Allow people to go to any willing clergy consistent with their conscience, and respect for their culture, and let them proceed that way.”

Supporters of same-sex marriage argue that Simpson’s proposal is hypocritical — that conservatives want marriage to be a states' rights issue when it suits them but when they lose before the Supreme Court, they want government out of marriage altogether. Simpson’s response? “I’m sure that is how some are gonna see it. My own conviction? [Marriage] has been that way for a long time. We should divorce marriage from government if we want to protect it.”

Simpson is clear on what he believes constitutes a marriage: “I think the state should recognize and respect marriage as an institution between one man and one woman,” he says, “and I don’t think we should be in the business of actually approving something otherwise.”

For Simpson, having the government recognize same-sex marriages de-legitimizes marriage as an institution.

“It’d be like recognizing wrong math or erroneous math as good,” he says. “That’s not correct.”

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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