Couples In The Texas Same-Sex Marriage Case Call Supreme Court Decision A Civil Rights Victory

Jun 26, 2015

To many historians, LBJ was a civil rights giant, enacting laws in the 1960’s that included the Equal Rights Clause of the 14th amendment and today’s Supreme Court decided on a narrow 5 to 4 ruling that should’ve included same-sex couples.

In 2013, Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman and Marc Phariss and Vic Holmes filed a constitutional lawsuit against the state’s ban on gay marriage because it excluded them of certain freedoms.

And Holmes says their decision to marry is no longer a trivial or intangible journey.

Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss
Credit Ryan E. Poppe

“And this matters, and so this has been a long fight and I’m glad that it’s come to this point where now I can marry the man that I love legally, where I can tell everybody that this man is the one for me and I’m not sure it’s ever been said, so I’ll say it now. “Will you marry me?” Holmes asked his partner.

The couple said they are planning for a private wedding in the fall.

Though the ban has been lifted in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott is directing all state agencies to protect religious liberties concerning gay marriage at all costs.

In his memo, Abbott wrote, “Texans of all faiths must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious freedom is beyond the reach of government.”

He went on to say that “The government must never pressure a person to abandon or violate his or her sincerely held religious beliefs regarding a topic such as marriage.”

A directive that concerns the plaintiffs in the case and their attorney Neel Lane

San Antonio Attorney Neel Lane, who represented the two Texas couples.
Credit Ryan E. Poppe

“I understand people may have problems, they may have a difficult time accepting same-sex unions, but when you are a state official in the State of Texas you swear an oath to uphold the constitution of the United State of America in addition to the laws and the constitution of Texas and if your personal beliefs prevent you from keeping that oath, then you need to step down, you do not have a religious right to violate the oath you took," Lane stressed.

But there are isolated cases where clerks are denying same-sex couples a marriage license based on religious beliefs.  Which is one of the reasons Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has requested Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s opinion on this very scenario.

Jonathan Saenz with the Conservative Leaning non-profit Texas Values says it’s an issue other states have addressed.

Jonathan Saenz, President of the non-profit group Texas Values
Credit Ryan E. Poppe

“In North Carolina, they actually passed a law that says there should be religious freedom rights and accommodations for people that are county clerks or folks that are involved in marriage licenses to not have to be forced to do that. So I think we will see more and more of those issues come up," Saenz explained.

An effort Saenz says Texas Values would support

Nicole Dimetman another plaintiff in the Texas lawsuit spoke directly to those opposed to the federal ruling.

“I feel for you, because in your heart today, you are very sad and I completely understand that your beliefs are genuine that many of you are not opposed to this because you hate me personally. It’s just the system of beliefs under which you’ve been raised and I’m sorry, I’m sorry that my happiness today is causing you distress," Dimetman somberly said.

Nicole Dimetman and her wife Cleopatra De Leon
Credit Ryan E. Poppe

Her attorney, Neel Lane, promised legal consequences for any public official that withholds a marriage certificate based on their individual beliefs, which he says is now a civil rights violation.