FORT WORTH -- In a ceremony filled with religious references, Governor Rick Perry signed a bill at a church school gymnasium yesterday that imposes more limits on late-term abortions and requires minors to get written parental consent for abortions.
The signing came as several hundred demonstrators -- some opposed to the signing of a bill on church property -- protested outside.
''It has been a tragedy of unspeakable consequences that for decades activist courts denied many Texas parents their right to be involved in one of the most important decisions their young daughter could ever make -- whether to end the life that was growing inside her," Perry told a crowd of about 1,000 people gathered at the Calvary Christian Academy.
''For too long, a blind eye has been turned to the rights of our most vulnerable human beings -- that's the unborn in our society," Perry said.
During the 90-minute program, Perry also signed a resolution to amend the Texas Constitution by banning same-sex marriages. However, that signature was only ceremonial because voters must approve the proposed ban in November.
''A nurturing home with a loving mother and loving father is the best way to guide our children down the proper path," he said.
Texas already had a parental notification bill, approved in 1999. The new, tougher measure requires a parent to provide written consent for unmarried girls under 18.
The bill also restricts doctors from performing abortions on women who have carried a child for more than 26 weeks unless having the baby would jeopardize the woman's life or the baby has serious brain damage.
Before Perry spoke, several pastors received standing ovations and shouts of ''Amen!" from the crowd as they touted the two measures being signed by Perry.
''It seems to me that people of the great state of Texas will be silent no more," said Rod Parsley, of the Center for Moral Clarity in Ohio. ''Folks in this room understand, God is still watching."
The ceremony brought out 300 protesters carrying signs. They included opponents of the ban on same-sex marriage, including two with posters reading ''Hate is not a family value" and ''God values all families."
Others were there to protest the use of church property for a bill signing.
''It hurts that he can cheapen politics and religion by this kind of maneuver and people can think it's OK," said Karin Cagle, a 45-year-old from Fort Worth who carried a sign saying ''Separate church and state -- Keep America great."
But Larry White, pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, said the gathering inside the church school was about life, family, and marriage. ''There are those that would drive people of faith from the public square if they could," White said.
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, sent Perry a letter Thursday asking him ''in the strongest terms possible" to change the venue. In an interview, Lynn, also a United Church of Christ minister, called the event a ''grotesque misuse of religion for a clear partisan political advantage."
Lynn said his group planned to ask the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether the church's tax-exempt status should be lifted because churches are supposed to avoid partisan politics. But Charlie Prior, Calvary's business administrator, said earlier the church's tax status would not be affected because the event was at the school.
Material from the Los Angeles Times was included in this report.