Protecting Marriage the Old-Fashioned Way

The Texas House today passed a constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriages and civil unions. The bill was approved by a 101 to 29 vote, barely exceeding the 100 votes necessary to amend the state constitution. The bill next goes to the state senate. If it garners a two-thirds vote there, the amendment will need to be approved by Texas voters.

One Texas legislator, however, had some thoughts on this:

"This amendment is blowing smoke to fuel the hell-fire flames of bigotry," said Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston.

Thompson, 66, an African-American who grew up with segregation, said the legislation reminded her of the time when interracial marriages were illegal.

"When people of my color used to marry someone of Mr. Chisum's color (white), you'd often find people of my color hanging from a tree. That's what white people back then did to protect marriage," Thompson said.

During the Jim Crow era, Texas trailed only Georgia and Mississippi in lynchings, before reformers like Jessie Daniel Ames helped stop the practice. Of course, people weren't usually lynched for interracial marriage; it was a little difficult to get that far in those days, when whistling at a white woman could be enough to get an African-American man (or a 14-year-old boy) killed by a mob.