By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Republican-backed legislation to put new blockades on same-sex marriage in Texas died in the statehouse on Friday after failing to win approval by a midnight deadline amid stalling tactics by the Democratic minority.
The bill, called the "Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act," would block clerk's offices in the state's 254 counties from using tax money to issue licenses for same-sex weddings in the most-populous Republican-controlled U.S. state.
Socially conservative backers have said the measure allows the state to exert its rights regarding marriage. The bill's demise comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide next month whether same-sex marriage will be legal nationwide.
Its sponsor, Republican Cecil Bell, told reporters he was angry at the way it was defeated and will still push for the rights of Texas to block same-sex marriage.
"I don’t believe that standing up for sovereignty is a partisan issue," he was quoted as saying by the Dallas Morning News.
Critics applauded the move that halted what they said was a deplorable and divisive bill.
"Bad actors will continue to push their discrimination legislation, including as amendments to other bills, until the final gavel. So we’re not letting our guard down now," said Kathy Miller, president, of the left-leaning advocacy group Texas Freedom Network.
About a decade ago, Texas voters approved a state constitutional amendment that only allows marriage between a man and a woman. Current Republican leaders have said they will fight to enforce the ban on same-sex marriage.
The bi-annual Texas legislative session ends in about two weeks. All bills, except the budget, that did not pass in the Texas House of Representatives before Friday are not allowed to proceed.
Before gay marriage became legal in the liberal northeastern state of Massachusetts in 2004, it was not permitted in any state. Now it is legal in 37 states and Washington.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Susan Heavey)