Rep. Sarah Davis Becomes First Texas GOP Lawmaker to Back Gay Marriage

Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place)
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Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place)

Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place) expressed support for same-sex marriage Thursday, becoming the first Republican state lawmaker in Texas history to publicly do so.

Davis, who previously endorsed civil unions, made the comments in an interview about her decision not to sign an anti-gay marriage letter issued by the House Republican Caucus last week.

“I just don’t agree with the sentiment of the letter,” Davis told the Observer. “I don’t feel the need to pass legislation or vote for legislation that prohibits two adults who love each other to be able to be joined in a civil union or marriage. It does not affect my marriage.”

Ninety-three of 98 Republicans in the House signed the letter, which was released after an anti-gay marriage bill by Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) died on the floor. House Republicans who didn’t sign the letter were Davis, Jason Villalba of Dallas, Larry Gonzales of Round Rock, Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio and Matt Schaefer of Tyler.

Schaefer told The Texas Tribune he didn’t sign because he wants action, not words, in opposition to same-sex marriage. The House speaker doesn’t typically sign such letters. Villalba stopped short of endorsing same-sex marriage in a recent interview, and Gonzales didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

Davis noted that she’s received endorsements from two LGBT groups, Log Cabin Republicans and Equality Texas. She was the first Republican to receive Equality Texas’ endorsement, a decision that drew criticism from some LGBT advocates, in part because she hadn’t come out for same-sex marriage.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to vote, but I’ve spoken about the issue,” Davis said. “In situations where I’ve been asked, I’ve always stated my position, so I don’t think this is new ground that I’ve just staked out.”

Davis is also a renegade within the GOP on reproductive rights. Two years ago, she was the only Republican House member to vote against a high-profile anti-abortion bill. But she said she believes her positions on the two issues reflect the views of constituents in her district.

“This is not breaking news, and if someone chooses to run against me in the primary and wants to make abortion or gay marriage an issue, then we’ll face that,” Davis said. “I’ve had contested primaries in the past, and those issues have come up, and my margin of victory actually increases every election.”

A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed that 42 percent of Texas voters, but only 20 percent of Republicans, support same-sex marriage.

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John Wright is a freelance journalist based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Published at 11:49 am CST
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