Senator files bill to legalize civil unions


Same sex couples would have access to many of the benefits and legal protections afforded to heterosexual married couples if a bill and several resolutions filed in the Texas Legislature gain approval.

The bill, filed by state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, would partially repeal the Texas Defense of Marriage Act of 2003, which prevents Texas from recognizing same sex unions.

In a statement, Hinojosa cited a 2012 public opinion poll conducted by UT and The Texas Tribune showing that a majority of Texas voters favored some legal recognition of same-sex couples.

"Texans are now realizing the importance of providing same-gender couples the same protections that married couples receive," Hinojosa said.

The bill would provide same sex couples certain legal protections including property rights, adoption rights and worker compensation benefits.

One of the three constitutional amendments proposed last week by state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, or state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, must pass in both the House and the Senate by a two-thirds majority vote and then approved by Texas voters in order for Hinojosa’s bill to take effect in 2014.

The proposed constitutional amendment would repeal the 2005 Texas Marriage Amendment to the Texas Constitution, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and prohibits recognition of civil unions.

Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, an organization that lobbies for gay and transgender rights, said in a statement that Hinojosa’s legislation is the first step on a path toward recognizing rights for same-sex couples in Texas.

"We believe that every Texas family should be able to take care of those they love," Smith said.