Austin becomes first Texas City to endorse same-sex marriage

On Sep. 27, Austin City Council voted unanimously to endorse same-sex marriage. While the decision will not have a direct impact on any of the laws that prohibit same-sex couples from obtaining a marriage license in Texas, the support could spark a legislative change, council member Sheryl Cole asserted. In an interview with The Austin-American Statesman, Cole said, “one thing we have learned is that simple, symbolic acts matter.” Cole urged city lobbyists to meet during the next legislative session to discuss a repeal of the Texas law. This decision follows a trend in the voting record of Austin’s city council. In the past few years, it has implemented laws that offer healthcare benefits to city employees and ban employers from firing anyone based on sexual orientation.

According to the Statesman, Equality Texas, a group that supports same-sex marriage and equality, requested that the council endorse marriage equality in response to recent legislation. In 2005, Texas passed its own Defense of Marriage Act, which echoes the sentiments of the national Defense of Marriage Act of 1996.

In an interview with the Statesman, director of Equality Texas Chuck Smith said, “[Texas] decided to put discrimination into its constitution.” Smith also cited the recent endorsement by the mayors of Houston, El Paso, Galveston and San Antonio as examples of how public opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage is evolving.

The City of Austin’s support comes at a historic moment for marriage equality. According to CNN, the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear Hollingsworth v. Perry, a case which argues that the state of California granted same-sex marriage rights and then revoked them. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found unlawful “Proposition 8,” the ballot initiative that essentially took away the rights of same-sex couples to marry, in that its rhetoric adopts a “suspect class,” the unnecessary distinction between heterosexual and homosexual couples.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of repealing DOMA, same-sex marriage could be legalized nationwide.