Wed February 26, 2014
Texas Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional
A federal judge in San Antonio has declared the Texas ban on same-sex marriage in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Today, Judge Orlando Garcia granted a motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining the state of Texas from enforcing the ban. However, the ruling is on hold until Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott appeals the decision to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Update: Travis Co. Clerk Says It's 'A Joyous Day'
Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, whose office issues marriage licenses, is fielding questions on what today's ruling means for gay couples wanting to marry. Although the ruling finds Texas' same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, the decision is on hold pending appeal.
DeBeauvoir released a written statement this afternoon lauding the decision: “Because of the stay order in the ruling, the County Clerk cannot issue marriage licenses to gay couples at this time. This is a joyous day, but we will have to wait a little longer to actually deliver the justice and equal rights gay couples so deserve.”
Update: Wendy Davis 'Pleased' With Ruling
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis is "pleased" with today's ruling.
According to politics blog Talking Points Memo:
"She is pleased with the ruling because she believes that all Texans who love one another and are committed to spending their lives together should be allowed to marry," press secretary Rebecca Acuña said in a statement.
Davis is Greg Abbott's presumptive rival in the November's race for Texas governor. Read Abbott's reaction below.
Update: Reaction from GOP Defendants Perry and Abbott
Two defendants on the losing side of today's ruling are well known to Texans: Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor as Perry steps down. Both are out with comments on today's ruling.
Gov. Rick Perry:
"Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our Constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens. The 10th Amendment guarantees Texas voters the freedom to make these decisions, and this is yet another attempt to achieve via the courts what couldn’t be achieved at the ballot box. We will continue to fight for the rights of Texans to self-determine the laws of our state."
Attorney General Greg Abbott:
This is an issue on which there are good, well-meaning people on both sides. And, as the lower court acknowledged today, it’s an issue that will ultimately be resolved by a higher court. Texas will begin that process by appealing today’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit. Because the judge has stayed his own decision, his ruling has no immediate practical effect. Instead, the ultimate decision about Texas law will be made by the Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that States have the authority to define and regulate marriage. The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman. If the Fifth Circuit honors those precedents, then today’s decision should be overturned and the Texas Constitution will be upheld.
Update: Meet the Case's Plaintiffs
Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes live near Dallas. They were plaintiffs in the lawsuit suing for the right to marry legally in Texas. Right now, the judge's ruling is on hold until the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears the case and rules. If it rules in favor of the plaintiffs, they'll be able to marry in this state.
“We are extremely happy – happy beyond words – with Judge Garcia's decision,” they said in a statement. “Having been together almost 17 years, we look forward to the day when we can get married and when all gay Texans enjoy equal rights to marry as well.”
Nicole Dimetman and Cleopatra De Leon live in Austin. Married in Massachusetts, they now have a 20-month-old son. They too were parties in the suit.
“We are thrilled with the ruling and remain hopeful that this matter will continue to move quickly through the courts,” they said in a statement. “Ultimately, the repeal of Texas’ ban will mean that our son will never know how this denial of equal protections demeaned our family and belittled his parents' relationship. We look forward to the day when, surrounded by friends and family, we can renew our vows in our home state of Texas.”
Highlights from the Ruling
In his ruling, Judge Garcia writes:
"After careful consideration, and applying the law as it must, this Court holds that Texas' prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process. Texas' current marriage laws deny homosexual couples the right to marry, and in doing so, demean their dignity for no legitimate reason. Accordingly, the Court finds these laws are unconstitutional and hereby grants a preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from enforcing Texas' ban on same-sex marriage."
From Judge Garcia's conclusion:
One of the court's main responsibilities is to ensure that individuals are treated equally under the law. Equal treatment of all individuals under the law is not merely an aspiration – it is a constitutional mandate. Consequently, equal protection is at the heart of our legal system and is essential for the existence of a free society.
Today's Court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the United States Constitution and Supreme Court precedent. Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution. Furthermore, Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from passing legislation born out of animosity against homosexuals (Romer), has extended constitutional protection to the moral and sexual choices of homosexuals (Lawrence), and prohibits the federal government from treating state-sanctioned opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages differently (Windsor).
You can read the decision yourself here.