Same-Sex Marriage Ban Among Amendments on Ballot

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Texans were deciding the fate Tuesday of nine proposed state constitutional amendments, with most interest centered on a ban of same-sex marriage.

Secretary of State Roger Williams predicted higher-than-usual voter turnout for a constitutional amendments election. He spent Monday urging voters to make their voices count.

"There is too much at stake to sit on the sidelines," Williams said. "Constitutional amendment elections are a vital part of our democracy and play an important role in shaping our state's future."

Based on early voting, Williams predicted an overall voter turnout of 16 percent of Texas' 12.5 million registered voters.

Through the two-week period of early voting that ended Friday, 5.2 percent of registered voters had cast ballots in the state's 15 most populous counties.

Typically, turnout is low in a constitutional amendments election in which there are no people running for statewide office. In 2003, when Texans approved a high-profile lawsuit limitation amendment, 12.2 percent of registered voters showed up.

Supporters and opponents of Proposition 2, the same-sex marriage ban, waged a heated campaign battle that escalated until Election Day.

The pro-Prop 2 group Texans for Marriage launched a television ad over the weekend in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Austin markets called "For God's Design." Its message was that the Bible states God intended for marriage to be between one man and one woman.

On Monday, amendment supporters arranged for recorded calls from Catholic Bishop John Yanta of Amarillo to go out to more than 800,000 Texas households, many of them Hispanic, urging a vote for the proposition.

No Nonsense in November, a leading anti-Prop 2 organization, has held almost daily events and on Saturday led a protest of some 3,000 people in Austin against a small Ku Klux Klan group that had gathered to support the amendment.

Same-sex marriage already is outlawed by state law. Those who support Prop 2 say a constitutional ban is necessary to ensure that a judge doesn't decide to allow gays to marry.

Opponents argue that a constitutional ban is merely a statement of discrimination against homosexuals. They also suggest that the proposed amendment is so poorly drafted that it could endanger common-law or even traditional marriages, depending on how a judge interprets it.

Backers of the proposition deny it could jeopardize man-woman marriage, and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott has agreed with them.

Other proposed amendments would create a relocation and improvement fund for Texas railroads; authorize line-of-credit advances under a reverse mortgage; and allow denial of bail for a criminal defendant who violates release conditions pending trial.

In Houston, voters were choosing a replacement for the late state Rep. Joe Moreno, a Democrat killed in a pickup truck accident in May. Six Democrats are vying to fill his unexpired term.

Houston voters also were deciding whether to re-elect Mayor Bill White, who had only minimal opposition.

In the community of White Settlement, a suburb of Fort Worth, voters have their say on whether to change the town's name to West Settlement. Proponents of the change say the name taken in the 1800s for the city's white pioneers is politically incorrect and hinders economic development.