The State of Texas: May 12, 2015
“I’m sure the people of Texas feel much more secure.”
Today in History
The Civil War continued for more than a month after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox—the message was a little slow getting to Texas. Wednesday and Thursday mark the sesquicentennial of the war’s very last fight, the Battle of Palmito Ranch, which the South won.
If Anyone Has Any Objections . . . – The state senate passed what could be its last-ditch effort to ban gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a landmark decision in the same-sex marriage fight, and many observers are predicting such bans will be ruled unconstitutional. As a reactionary measure, the senate has tentatively passed the so-called Pastor Protection Act, which “clarifies clergy members’ right to refuse to marry same-sex couples.” As the Texas Tribune notes, Democrats who objected to the bill did so on grounds that made as much sense as possible to deep-red Republicans. Senator José Rodríguez “questioned whether it could be used to justify a refusal to perform interracial marriages—shielding religious officials from prosecution ‘no matter how extreme [their] views are,’” while Senator John Whitmire “asked what problem the bill was trying to fix” seeing as same-sex marriage doesn’t even exist in Texas. The bill is just one of several, including a measure that would “stop county clerks from issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple or recognizing such a marriage,” according to the Dallas Morning News. Observers says this legislation is “setting the state on a collision course with the Constitution” that could see a public backlash on par with Indiana’s recent religious freedom law.
The Boys in Blue (Still) – The Dallas Morning News has taken a hard look at the rather shocking gender imbalance in the state’s police departments. While more than half the state is female, a Reporting Texas analysis “found that as of early February, about 11.5 percent of the licensed peace officers in Texas were women,” according to the story. In many instances, female respresentation is nonexistent. “Almost a third of all police departments in Texas have no female officers. More than half have no more than one. There are no female sheriff’s deputies in 54 of 254 counties, and 43 counties have no more than one.” As for the DPS, about 5 percent of the officers are female. Even more unfortunate, these figures are pretty representational of women officers on a national level. Experts point to several issues, most surrounding difficult-to-prove discrimination claims, as well as physical fitness standards.
Prepared Regardless – Just before the attack in Garland by two radical Muslims, the FBI apparently sent local authorities the “license plate number and photo of one of the shooters, who had a prior terrorism-related conviction, but police said Monday they didn’t see the intelligence bulletin in time,” according to the Associated Press. “The FBI sent the bulletin through its Dallas command post to Garland police, informing them that one of the attackers, Elton Simpson, ‘might be interested in going to Garland,’ FBI director James Comey told reporters in Washington on Thursday.” No matter, says Garland police chief Mitch Bates. He told reporters that “seeing it in advance would not have made a difference because it didn’t include any specific information that Simpson was a threat to the event,” writes the Austin American-Statesman. Apparently neither the FBI nor Garland officials suspected that the two men—one who previously attempted some radical projects—would attack a contest specifically meant to incite anger among Muslims. But it’s the Dallas attorney for five officers involved in the shooting that has the best line: “Neither he nor his clients had seen the FBI memo,” but “they knew they weren’t guarding a Girl Scout convention.”
Recovery – Governor Abott declared a state of emergency in seven counties yesterday following the severe weather that included flooding and tornados. The declaration for Bosque, Clay, Denton, Eastland, Gaines, Montague, and Van Zandt counties “authorizes further mobilization of state resources to assist impacted communities,” according to the Houston Chronicle. A few people in Arkansas died and three were killed in Texas. “For much of the day, eight people were still unaccounted for in Van, population 2,600, about 70 miles southeast of Dallas. Searchers eventually located five of them alive and planned to continue looking for the others into the evening.” Van was hit particularly hard and even the New York Times took note. Although deaths were at a bare minimum, “the destruction seemed to touch everyone and everything, and to cut deeper than if it had unfolded in a larger and more urban area.” The National Weather Service said that “based on a damage assessment, the [Van] twister on Sunday was a Category 3 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which measures tornado strength on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being the most destructive.”
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