A federal judge in San Antonio struck down a Texas ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional on Feb. 26. Judge Orlando Garcia stated that the ban, established in 2005 with 76 percent of votes in favor of the amendment, was a violation of same-sex couples’ rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
However, same-sex couples will still be unable to marry in Texas because Garcia issued a stay on his ruling. He said although the couples are likely to win their cases, he wants the decision to be reviewed on appeal.
The case challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was brought to the United States District Court in San Antonio by two same-sex couples: Cleopatra De Leon and UTSA Alumnus Nicole Dimetman, and Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes. De Leon wed Dimetman in Massachusetts and wanted their marriage to be recognized in Texas.
De Leon, is the biological mother of their 2-year-old son, but Dimetman had to undergo adoption because Texas did not recognize her as the legitimate parent.
Phariss wanted the right to marry Holmes, his partner of 17 years.
“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,” Garcia concluded in his ruling.
“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution. 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.”
Following Garcia’s ruling, De Leon and Dimetman released a joint statement that read, “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.”
Texas Governor Rick Perry also released a statement in the aftermath of the ruling. He criticized the court’s decision as “yet another attempt to achieve via the courts what couldn’t be achieved at the ballot box.”
Texas Attorney General and Republican front-runner for governor Greg Abbott confirmed that his office intends to appeal the ruling in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Abbott expressed confidence that the Fifth Circuit would rule in the favor of the state.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that states have the authority to define and regulate marriage,” said Abbott in a statement. “The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman.”
In an interview with the San Antonio Express-News, gubernatorial candidate Senator Wendy Davis called on the state’s attorney to end his defense of the Texas law.
Phariss told KERA News on Feb. 27 that he and Abbott were law school classmates and good friends. Phariss also said he visited Abbott in the hospital after Abbott’s accident in 1984, and they still exchange Christmas cards annually.
“I disagree with his decision to pursue the appeal, and I disagree with his take on what the status of the law is,” Phariss said. “But I don’t take it personally.”
A June 2013 poll conducted by the College of Liberal Arts at UT Austin found that 65 percent of Texas residents are in favor of either same-sex marriage or civil unions, while just 26 percent oppose both.