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Federal Judge Rules Texas' Gay Marriage Ban Is Unconstitutional

Society & Culture  (tags: americans, children, culture, education, family, freedoms, gayrights, goodnews, government, law, media, politics, religion, safety, society )

- 1545 days ago -
Texas became the biggest conservative state to have its gay marriage ban declared unconstitutional by a federal judge Wednesday, though he held his ruling in abeyance so higher-ranking jurists, possibly even the U.S. Supreme Court, can weigh in.

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Kit B (276)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 8:49 am
Photo Credit: Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer for Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN — Texas became the biggest conservative state to have its gay marriage ban declared unconstitutional by a federal judge Wednesday, though he held his ruling in abeyance so higher-ranking jurists, possibly even the U.S. Supreme Court, can weigh in.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio ruled that the Texas ban on same-sex marriages, which voters approved in 2005, stigmatizes gay couples for no legitimate reason. It deprives them of due process and equal protection, he said.

“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” Garcia, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, said in his order.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state immediately would appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Other federal appellate courts also will be handling challenges to similar state laws, prompting some – but not all – legal experts to predict that Supreme Court review is highly likely.

Nationally, similar battles are underway in federal courts in 24 states, unleashed by a key high-court ruling last year. Garcia’s ruling came amid an intensifying flurry over legal and political developments related to gay rights.

And on Wednesday, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona vetoed a bill that would have given business owners the right to refuse service to gays, lesbians and other people on religious grounds. Also, a federal trial is ongoing in Michigan over that state’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Political fallout

Garcia’s ruling landed with just days left before Texas’ primary elections. Republicans up and down the ballot denounced it, while Democrats welcomed it.

Abbott, the soon-to-be GOP nominee for governor, was cautious, calling the case “an issue on which there are good, well-meaning people on both sides.”

Gov. Rick Perry, though, said the state will keep fighting against such interventions by federal judges.

“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,” he said.

Abbott’s likely Democratic opponent, state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, commended Garcia’s logic.

“All Texans who love one another and are committed to spending their lives together should be allowed to marry,” she said.

Garcia issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from enforcing its 2003 law preventing recognition of same-sex marriages from other states and the 2005 amendment. But he stayed it from taking effect until his ruling can be reviewed on appeal.

“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,” said Garcia, a former state House member.

He said the two same-sex couples who brought the suit were likely to prevail. Such couples not only are saddled with additional expenses, such as legal costs of adopting children, but face an ongoing legal insult, he said.

Garcia said such legal harm can’t be allowed to continue, given the Supreme Court’s rulings of recent years that decriminalized Texas’ sodomy law; voided a Colorado ballot measure that barred ordinances prohibiting discrimination against gays; and, last June, said married same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits.

“Federal courts at all levels have recognized that violation of constitutional rights constitutes irreparable harm as a matter of law,” he said, adding “no amount of money can compensate the harm.”

Garcia’s ruling brought tears of joy to lawyer Mark Phariss and physician assistant Victor Holmes, both of Plano. They have sought to obtain a marriage license. Also suing were two Austin lesbians, Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, who want Texas to recognize their out-of-state marriage.

Phariss told reporters he grew up in Oklahoma, realizing he was gay and praying on many nights as he went to bed that “I would not wake up. … Now I realize that God didn’t make me gay to hate me. He loves me. ... I also now am on the cusp of being able to marry the person I love.”

Assessing impact

While some legal experts called Garcia’s ruling part of a tide that inexorably will force the Supreme Court to take up the gay marriage issue, others said not so fast.

“It’s another rock on the pile,” said Teresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis, Minn.

But she said the court’s June rulings striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and effectively halting California’s gay-marriage ban, known as Proposition 8, suggested the justices want to leave the issue alone for a while.

“It is very clear that Chief Justice [John] Roberts is concerned about not getting too far ahead of the American people,” she said.

Columbia University law professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, though, called Garcia’s ruling “important” and part of a gay rights winning streak.

“The ruling is also consistent with the views of the general public,” she said. “Polling shows more than half of Americans support marriage equality … and the number keeps rising.”

Still, Brigham Young University law professor Lynn Wardle noted that five of six judges who’ve ruled since December were appointed by Democratic presidents.

“Same old, same old judicial politics – Democrat judges’ striking down laws protecting traditional marriage,” he said. “Ho hum.”

But Angela Dallara of the gay rights group Freedom to Marry noted that no judge has ruled in favor of a state gay marriage ban since the key Supreme Court rulings last year. The last such ruling was by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones in November 2012, who said Nevada’s same-sex ban didn’t violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Seventeen states have broadened the definition of marriage to include gay couples. On Monday, a group called Freedom to Marry announced it has begun a new $1 million campaign to win support for similar measures in the South.

But the region offers entrenched resistance, especially in Texas. Texas voters passed the 2005 amendment banning gay marriage by better than 3-to-1. And all the state’s officeholders elected statewide are Republicans, who are all but certain to maintain control of the Legislature in this year’s elections.

By: Robert T Garrett | Dallas Morning News |
Staff writers Jeffrey Weiss in Dallas and Brittney Martin in Austin contributed to this report.

Follow up story:

After 53 years together, Dallas gay couple to wed

Kit B (276)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 8:50 am

Well Dorothy I do believe the witch is dying and freedom is seeping in slowly but gently. Though not in Kansas.

Alexandra G (250)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 9:18 am
noted, thanks

pam w (139)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 12:37 pm
Who'd'a thought it? :-)

Laurie H (817)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 1:24 pm
I would like to think that progressive thinking will be the norm some day. Being hurtful to those who may be different from oneself is unacceptable. Thank you for this share Kit & please take care & be completely well soon!!!~

JL A (281)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 1:35 pm
I like the contrasting legal opinions from the academics included in this article; thanks Kit.

Pat B (356)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 1:43 pm
Followup story: What a wonderful story of love after 53 years being together, Jack and George are finally getting married.! My congratulations to them! It's about time.!!! Thanks, Kit for this.

Arielle S (313)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 2:56 pm
There is hope for Texas after all! This is great news...and even better, Kit is back!

Kit B (276)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 5:17 pm

Wendy Davis is not gaining the huge money that Abbot and Dewhurst are getting from oil and gas. But she does have many worker bees and we are working hard for a victory. I expect the usual dirty politics for this election, but we just might win out over the dirty money.

Mitchell D (87)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 6:24 pm
Perry is a jackass. plain and simple!
If Davis beats!

Vallee R (280)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 7:12 pm
Remember I read this on FB - glad!

Vivian B (169)
Saturday March 1, 2014, 10:10 pm
To think, Texas is going to change their rules, er, laws is just amazing! Wish some of that good will would spill over into Oklahoma! Ahh, we can only dream!!
Thanks for the link, Kit!

Craig Pittman (52)
Sunday March 2, 2014, 5:48 am
Good for the judge, good for Texas. Now if we can only convince or remove from office those around the world still stuck in the 19th century.

Daniel Colombo (51)
Sunday March 2, 2014, 6:04 am

Gloria picchetti (304)
Sunday March 2, 2014, 6:44 am
When will conservatives learn the lesson of live and let live?

Lois Jordan (63)
Sunday March 2, 2014, 2:19 pm
Noted. Thanks, Kit. Glad to read this. Seems like it will all end up in the Supreme Court. As I've been reading, that Court will issue a ruling where gay marriage will be "the law of the land" within a couple of years. I am hopeful for that ruling for family and friends to finally feel like "equals" with this right. It's been a long time coming. Equality for all!

Kit B (276)
Sunday March 2, 2014, 2:37 pm

Lois I think that is optimistic. This Court will probably do as they have with too many issues and return it to the states.

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Sunday March 2, 2014, 8:51 pm
I celebrate each and every just decision handed down by judges around the country because it keeps the flickering little candle of hope I have for the U.S. and the broken justice system. Thank you for the news!

Evelyn B (62)
Sunday March 2, 2014, 10:45 pm
Signs of tolerance - so good to see (whatever the issue!)
Thanks, Kit - keep posting, please!

Sherri G (128)
Monday March 3, 2014, 1:20 am
Noted TY Kit. We must never give up. When I was a kid in Texas 60 years ago no one stood a chance in hell of being treated fairly if you were gay. Now and hopefully soon Texas will be forced into the 21st century. The world must stop hate or we are stupid and we will not survive on this earth.

Dee C (229)
Monday March 3, 2014, 8:55 am
It's really hard to realize this has taken as long as it has..and..still there are those who are so adamantly against it..

Thanks Kit..
Noted & shared..

Dan Pollard (0)
Monday March 3, 2014, 8:48 pm
great to hear. Sense prevails again.

Doranna Mcclendon (0)
Thursday April 16, 2015, 4:12 pm
No that Gay marriage ban should not be UNCONSTITUTIONAL because if God wanted people of the opposite sex to have sex and to marry God would not have made 2 sexes. Also when 2 men have sex in a marriage or outside of one they are getting and spreading HIV,and people can die and die from that. so they should not be getting married.

Doranna Mcclendon (0)
Thursday April 16, 2015, 4:15 pm
The republicans are rich and they are liberal and the liberals are atheist and they don't believe in god.And when you don't believe in God you all the moreso think that Gay marriage is okay.

Beryl Ludwig (80)
Monday July 13, 2015, 5:35 am
Gay marriage has been around forever Just wasn't official people hid the fact that they were attracted to the same sex.
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