The Texas House has scrapped -- at least for the time being -- a measure that would have allowed some child welfare agencies to block gays and same-sex couples from adopting children through them.
The proposal would have protected entities that object to such adoptions on religious grounds from being sued and was championed by leading social conservatives. It was a planned amendment to a bill reorganizing the Department of Family and Protective Services, but was abruptly pulled down late Tuesday night.
Midnight was the deadline for the House to pass Senate bills ahead of the June 1 end of the legislative session, and the health agency overhaul originated in the upper chamber. House Democrats, therefore, had a chance to run out the clock on legislation they particularly detested, and they took to the floor to draw out debate on bills being considered ahead of it.
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Fearing that there wasn't enough time to tackle it and other top priorities, including a bill to allow licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns onto college campuses, Republicans tried to reorganize Tuesday's House calendar. But because that required two-thirds support of the chamber, it narrowly failed along party lines, 96-53.
The health agency reorganization came up less than three hours before Tuesday's deadline, and the amendment on gay adoptions was among those removed to speed up the vote and clear the way for the so-called campus carry bill.
However, the health administration bill still needs final House approval, a vote that isn't subject to the same deadline and should come Wednesday. It's possible the gay adoption amendment could be tacked on during that vote, though such major changes being made so late in the process is unusual.
Also Tuesday, a Senate committee revived an anti-gay marriage bill that failed to pass the House earlier this month and had appeared dead.
It prohibits state, county and local clerks and governmental officials from issuing or recognizing same-sex marriages, even if a U.S. Supreme Court ruling eventually legalizes them. An amendment to the Texas Constitution approved by voters in 2005 bans gay marriage statewide, but the revived measure seeks to further shield Texas from a high court ruling that could go the other way.
Brownsville Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio, chairman of the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee, said the sponsor of the original House bill asked senators for a last-ditch effort to revive it.
Lucio's committee approved language from the bill by Rep. Cecil Bell, a Republican from Magnolia northwest of Houston, meaning it will likely hit the Senate floor Wednesday. Lucio said he supported it to strengthen "traditional structure of the family and family values."
But he also predicted that it would take "magical powers" for the back-from-the-dead measure to clear the full Legislature.
"Quite frankly, it's running out of time," Lucio said.