Some opponents of Texas’ marriage amendment believe it would put all marriages at risk (courtesy Austin American-Statesman)
As early voting begins on a Texas marriage amendment, pro-family groups claim a fraudulent campaign is under way to deceive voters into defeating the measure, which aims to limit matrimony to one man and one woman.
Kelly Shackelford, president of the Free Market Foundation and an author of the proposed amendment, Proposition 2, says Texans are being flooded with deceptive automated phone calls telling people to vote “No” because of a purported flaw in the legislation.
“There must be a lot of them because we are getting calls from a number of supporters who are confused,” Shackelford said.
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins condemned the “misleading campaign” and urged voters to “protect marriage by voting ‘Yes’ on Prop. 2, which is the only way to ensure that marriage will be protected from redefinition by activist state judges.”
The group sending out the controversial messages is a registered political action committee, or PAC, called Save Texas Marriage.
On its website, the group contends the language in Proposition 2 would effectively annul all marriage in the state.
The amendment would write into the state Constitution the following in Article 32:
a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.
b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.
Save Texas Marriage asserts that by leaving out key words, legislators are invalidating marriage, because section b) nullifies section a).
Similar measures in other states, the group argues, uses language to ensure it applies only to homosexuals.
But Shackelford argues the state Attorney General rejected a similar argument on the floor of the Senate when opponents insisted the amendment would ban common-law marriage.
The amendment doesn’t say the state may not recognize “marriage,” Shackelford says, it prohibits only attempts to create a status similar or
identical “to marriage.”
He points out that other states, such as California, have “created copy-cats of marriage and just called it by a different name and thus avoided [the] constitutional marriage amendment passed by its people.”
The Texas amendment does not allow this, he maintains.
“The words clearly recognize marriage in Texas as between a man and a woman and refuse to recognize attempts to recreate that status through any other means,” he said.
Save Texas Marriage also claims the amendment will take away benefits and hospital visitation and other benefits for unmarried couples. But Shackelford says the amendment clearly states: “This state recognizes that through the designation of guardians, the appointment of agents and the use of private contracts, persons may adequately and properly appoint guardians and arrange rights relating to hospital visitation, property and the entitlement to proceeds of life insurance policies without the existence of any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”
Lawyer David Richards, former chief of litigation in the state attorney general’s office, told the Austin American-Statesman newspaper he believes the sentence’s wording is “crazy,” but it’s not likely a judge would use it to nullify all marriages.
If the amendment wins overwhelming approval, Richards said, “then the ultimate judicial response will be not to fly in the face of the public’s expression of their will.”
Shackelford said the calls from Save Texas Marriage are so deceptive they even end with “God bless you.”
One call begins with a minister saying Gov. Rick Perry “messed up,” and there is a hidden liberal agenda, according to Shackelford.
The Austin paper said that in one automated telephone call, Rev. Tom Heger of San Antonio’s Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church says in part: “A greedy insurance company, tricky divorce lawyer or a liberal Austin activist judge can easily use these words to overturn traditional marriage and cause people to lose health insurance, tax breaks and pensions.”
Shackelford said Save Texas Marriage is calling seniors who typically would support conservative legislation.
“We have received several calls from people who were extremely heartbroken to learn they were misled into voting something today they did not believe,” he said. “This is an all-out fraud to deceive voters.”
The election, which began Monday and runs through Nov. 4, is the first time Texans will have the opportunity to vote on defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
Voters can vote early in person or by mail, according to the Secretary of State’s website.