Controversial Texas bill aims to give property tax relief to straight married couples with kids

A controversial bill being proposed at the Texas Capitol aims to give property tax relief to some married couples, based on the number of children they have. But it’s who wouldn’t be eligible for that, same-sex couples and divorcees, that’s raising eyebrows.

"What this is doing is incentivizing and pushing a healthy family unit," said State Rep. Bryan Slaton of Greenville.

Slaton is proposing a bill in the Texas house that would give a tax break to couples based on how many children they have.

"I come from East Texas. We have biblical values there where we want people to get married, stay married, be fruitful and multiply," said Slaton.

HB 2889 would reward exactly that. Parents with four kids would qualify for a 40% property tax discount, and it goes up from there. With 10 kids, your house becomes tax-free. The benefit continues even after your kids become adults.

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"I think we need to incentivize more children. Yes, I am worried a little bit about our birthrate," said Slaton.

But there’s a part of the bill that has many doing a double-take. In order to qualify, the couple must be a man and a woman legally married to each other, neither of whom has ever been divorced.

FOX 7 Austin reporter John Krinjak asked Slaton why he decided to limit the scope to heterosexual couples who haven’t been divorced.

"The bottom line, what we see is children do better when they have their mother and their father in the same home with them," said Slaton.

Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez calls the bill homophobic, saying he’s dismayed but not surprised.

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"I do think that there comes a point when anti-trans anti-LGBTQ animus becomes kind of a full-blown creepy obsession," said Martinez.

He says he’s most worried about the message it sends.

"I’m concerned about just the stigma that it continues to perpetuate," said Martinez. "And it leads to increased bullying, harassment, violence."

Dr. Eddy Carder, a constitutional law professor at Prairie View A&M, says the bill clearly conflicts with marriage equality.

"A person has the right to marry the individual of their choice, regardless of gender. And this bill flies in the face of that Supreme Court ruling," said Carder. "It’s hard to imagine any circumstance under which this particular bill would be considered constitutionally valid at the state level or even at the federal level."

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"We can have that discussion, and they can have that discussion in court," said Slaton.

It’s possible the bill could be altered in committee to appeal to a wider group of Republicans, but Martinez is confident most Texans will oppose it.

"To have someone with this much power really signaling to our community that we are not good enough, intentionally erasing us from a conversation, I think goes against what Texans believe," said Martinez. "And it’s shameful."