Thu February 27, 2014
Federal Judge Rules Texas Same-Sex Marriage Ban Is Unconstitutional
A federal judge in San Antonio has ruled that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and should not be enforced, saying that there was no rational basis for the law.
Federal District Judge Orlando Garcia’s opinion says for that reason, the Texas law barring same-sex marriages fails to meet the standard under the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.
But even though Garcia granted the injunction that would allow same-sex couples to marry, he stayed his ruling pending the state's appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, meaning same-sex couples will not be able to marry in Texas until a ruling is made on the appeal.
"It’s a historic day in the State of Texas,” said San Antonio attorney Neel Lane, who represented the two same-sex couples challenging the ban.
Lane said his clients are ecstatic because if Garcia's ruling is upheld on the appeal, every same-sex couple in the state of Texas has the same rights as any other couple. Garcia also provided a ruling regarding same-sex couples with children.
"What he said was there was no way to argue that restrictions on same-sex marriage promote better child-rearing -- it doesn’t make any sense to deny marriage to same-sex couples who have children," Lane said.
Lane says their next stop is the 5th Circuit Court, where he will defend Garcia’s decision.
Reaction from plaintiffs:
Mark Pharis and his partner are one of the two couples who sued the State of Texas for being denied the right to marry. Pharis said this decision affects more than 800,000 gay people in Texas.
"I’m 54 years old and this is the first time I’ve had a court or anyone else tell me that I’m equal to anyone else," Pharis said.
Pharis said he’s been asked if the ruling had anything to do with economic benefits applied to married couples.
"People forgot that this case matters so much for gays and lesbians that until you start thinking about all the consequences of being married -- those are so important -- and it has nothing to do with economic reasons and has everything to do with love," Pharis said.
Cleopatra De Leon and her partner are the other couple who challenged the state and said no one should have to worry about the welfare of their family just because they are a same-sex couple.
"Before we left our home in Austin to come down to San Antonio, we reached for the adoption papers, it’s a reality for our family," she said. "We have to make sure we are prepared for any eventuality."
Attorney General Greg Abbott released a statement on the decision:
"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."