Texas House OKs Gay Marriage Ban

House members who approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage (search) got a cool reception from one constituent — 10-year-old Kimberly Norman.

"I don't think that they're opening their eyes to look at the world to see everything," the fifth-grader, who is being raised by two women she calls mom, said Monday at the Capitol.

The measure aims to stem possible court challenges to an existing Texas (search) law making same-sex marriages illegal. It passed with a vote of 101-29, more than the 100 needed for approval of a constitutional amendment in the House.

"I think marriage is important enough to the people of this state that it deserves the highest level of protection," said Republican Rep. Warren Chisum, who sponsored the bill.

The measure still must win approval in the Senate and from Texas voters to become part of the state constitution. Chisum said no senator has agreed to sponsor the bill in the upper chamber.

The smattering of Democrats who opposed the measure said it would constitutionalize discrimination. "This amendment is blowing smoke to fuel the hell fire flames of bigotry," said Rep. Senfronia Thompson.

The debate comes less than a week after House members approved a measure that would ban same-sex couples from becoming foster parents.

Gay and lesbian rights advocates criticized both measures, saying the Legislature needs to prioritize building up Texas families with public education and social services, rather than discriminating against the state's 43,000 gay couples.

"What they're doing really flies in face of family values," said Heath Riddles, Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of Texas spokesman.

The marriage ban, Riddles said, would also hurt unmarried heterosexual couples, making it difficult for them to enter into end-of-life contractual agreements or give a partner power of attorney.

Chisum added a measure he said is meant to give gay and straight Texans the same contractual rights they currently have. It allows private contracts for guardianship, hospital visitation rights, insurance benefits and property ownership.

If the amendment is approved by voters, Texas would join 14 states, including Oklahoma, Montana and Louisiana, that statutorily and constitutionally ban same-sex marriage.

Nationally, President Bush supports conservative advocacy groups pushing for congressional approval of a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The measure, which would need ratification by 38 states, last year failed to win the necessary two-thirds support in the U.S. House and Senate.