A U.S. district judge is slated to rule soon on a case challenging Texas’ constitutional ban of same-sex marriages. The judge heard arguments Wednesday in a federal court in San Antonio.
The plaintiffs in the case are two same-sex couples – one lives in the Austin area and another near Dallas. They’re asking for a preliminary injunction on Texas’s law. But even if U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, a Clinton appointee, finds the state ban unconstitutional, plaintiffs' attorneys don’t expect that we’ll see the long lines of gay couples waiting to get married – like we did after a recent decision in Utah.
"The judge indicated that he is considering staying his order if he grants the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction," says Neel Lane, one of the lawyers working for the plaintiffs. "So it’s very unlikely there’ll be a window like there was in Utah where couples can get married until the court of appeals stays it or U.S. Supreme Court stays it."
Lane says Judge Garcia would stay, or temporarily suspend, his order because of recent action by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court stayed the Utah decision that lifted the same-sex marriage restriction in that state pending appeals at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
"When the Supreme Court stays a district court decision pending appeal, it sends a message to all the other district courts," Lane adds.
If the judge rules that Texas’ law is unconstitutional, Texas state officials are expected to immediately appeal that decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Back in Austin, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says her office is ready to grant licenses when a ruling comes down.
"We would be prepared under the law to welcome anybody who would be eligible for a marriage license. And welcome them joyfully," DeBeauvoir says.
But because of all the uncertainties in the case, DeBeauvoir says her office would first check with the county attorney on what her office would be allowed to do.
"We’re watching the case very carefully, and we’re students of this lawsuit just like a lot of people who are very interested in this issue," DeBeauvoir says.
While the constitutional ban has been in the spotlight for this hearing, Judge Garcia is also considering whether or not Texas should recognize legal same-sex marriages from other state. Both decisions could come in the next few days or weeks.