AUSTIN — The Texas House will not vote on a resolution honoring a prominent North Texas gay couple after GOP opposition emerged, The Dallas Morning News has learned.
House Resolution 85 was meant to honor Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes, two Plano residents who sued to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The state of Texas conceded defeat after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a constitutional right in 2015.
Phariss and Holmes were married that same year.
The congratulatory resolution, a symbolic gesture that wouldn’t change state law, notes that the couple has “made a lasting, positive difference through their advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community” and notes that Phariss is a longtime attorney and Holmes served in the Air Force when members of the military were not allowed to openly identify as gay.
The resolution’s author said she made the decision to pull it from a vote because she did not want a statement meant to honor Phariss and Holmes to be used “to be used as political pawns or be subjected to harassment.” She said she spoke with the couple in making her decision.
“I find it deeply hurtful that HR 85 has been targeted by a handful of disruptive and unproductive members,” Rep. Mihaela Plesa, D-Dallas, said in an extensive statement provided to The News. “We will not be a party to the hatefulness on display. I will still honor them with a resolution that will not need to go before the full House and Mark and Vic will continue their civic engagement and service to our community. We are undeterred and we are laser-focused on meaningful legislation.”
Hundreds of resolutions are filed each session. This year, resolutions have already been passed congratulating the Houston Astros on their 2022 World Series win, recognizing March 15 as Texas Small Business Development Center Day and commemorating the 2023 Syndicate Smokedown barbecue competition hosted by the Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate.
The House passed a memorial resolution last week for Dallas AIDS services advocate Don Maison, who died last year.
Texas GOP leaders have named several bills that would restrict the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially transgender rights among their priorities this year. They began debating some bills targeting transgender college athletes and gender affirming care for minors this week.
The death of HR85 marks the second time state lawmakers have decided not to vote on a pro-LGBTQ resolution this session. Earlier this year, the House and Senate both declined to take a vote on a resolution to mark Feb. 14 as Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce Advocacy Day.
That decision was later reversed in the House, which approved the resolution last week; 56 of 86 Republicans voted against the measure. The resolution was authored by multiple members of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus; there are nine openly LGBTQ state lawmakers.
Rep. Tony Tinderholt, an Arlington Republican who unsuccessfully ran for House Speaker this session, was among the opposition. He and Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, have been among the most vocal opponents this year of symbolic gestures supporting LGBTQ Texans.
Tinderholt urged others to oppose the resolution honoring Phariss and Holmes on Tuesday.
“Dade Phelan’s leadership team is placing another pro LGBTQ+ resolution in this week’s resolution packet,” he tweeted, referencing the current House Speaker, a Republican from Beaumont. “I will be voting against the entire packet. We should not celebrate the Left.”
Rinaldi shared his tweet, adding, “thank you.”
Their tweets were followed by support from the Texas Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right conservatives in the House, and the Republican Party of Texas.
But both Tinderholt and Rinaldi, who served in the House for two sessions, did not vote against similar resolutions in previous years.
Neither voted against a 2017 resolution marking the 40th anniversary of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group representing LGBTQ conservatives. No one, including Tinderholt, voted against a resolution in 2019 to honor the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce nor was he among the 22 Republicans who voted against a resolution last session honoring the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce on its fifth anniversary.
Tinderholt did not return emailed and texted requests for comment. Rinaldi, through a spokesman, declined to comment.
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