Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Gay Marriage Ban

A federal judge declared Texas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional but left it in place until an appeals court can rule on the case.

Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a longstanding law. He said the couples are likely to win their case and the ban should be lifted, but said he would give the state time to appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution," Garcia wrote. "These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex."

But this was the first time a court in the conservative 5th Circuit has reached such a decision. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was expected to file an expedited appeal.

Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes filed their federal civil rights lawsuit saying Texas' ban unconstitutionally denied them the fundamental right to marry because of their sexual orientation. Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman also filed a lawsuit saying Texas officials were violating their rights by not recognizing their marriage conducted in a state where gay marriage is legal.

Attorneys for the state argued that Texas voters had imposed the ban through a referendum and that Texas officials were within their rights to defend marriage traditions.

Meghan Stabler, The Board of Director for The Human Rights Campaign, had this to say to DISH;

 ”Today’s historic ruling lays a foundation of marriage equality in the Lone Star State. America has proven to be ready for loving committed gay and lesbian couples’ to marry and so has Texas. If two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to each other, to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, then the state of Texas has no legal or constitutional grounds to deny them the opportunity to get married. The momentum for full equality in Texas started when discriminatory laws were placed on the books by the moral majority, now is the time to right that wrong and we will not stop until our mission is completed.”

Another gay couple has filed a separate lawsuit in federal court in Austin. In that case, two men argue that the ban discriminates against them based on their gender. That case is scheduled for a hearing later this year.