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Topics In the News
Federal Judge Invalidates Texas Marriage Ban
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 02/26/14
Last updated on: 02/27/14
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Plaintiffs Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman.

On February 26, 2014, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio declared Texas's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. He ruled that it violates due process and equal protection under the law by stigmatizing the relationships of same-sex couples and treating them differently under the law.

As Robert T. Garrett reports in the Dallas Morning News, Judge Garcia stayed his ruling pending appeal to the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Today's court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent," Garcia said in his decision. "Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution."

Garcia's decision comes in De Leon v. Perry, one of three cases challenging Texas's marriage ban. It was brought by two men from Plano, Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes, who have been a couple for 16 years and want to marry; and by a lesbian couple, Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, who were married in Massachusetts nine years ago and want Texas to recognize their marriage. De Leon and Dimetman are rearing a child.

In reaching the conclusion that Texas's laws that exclude same-sex couples from marriage are unconstitutional, Judge Garcia found that they fail to survive even the most lenient level of scrutiny, rational review (though, intriguingly, he found the plaintiffs' argument that the laws should be subjected to heightened scrutiny "compelling").

He dismissed the state's argument that the marriage ban is related to the state's interest in childrearing, pointing out not only that the state offered no real evidence for the contention that excluding same-sex couples from marriage positively affects childrearing, but also that preventing same-sex couples from marrying denies their children the protection and stability the state claims is so important.

He similarly rejected the state's argument that excluding gay couples from marriage encourages heterosexual procreation, observing that procreation is not and has never been a qualification for marriage. He notes that individuals who cannot or will not procreate are allowed to marry under current Texas law.

In reaching his decision, Judge Garcia methodically traced how the Supreme Court rulings in Romer v. Evans (1996), Lawrence v. Texas (2003), and Windsor v. U.S.A. (2014) made his conclusion inevitable.

In addition, Judge Garcia explained clearly how same-sex couples suffer as a result of their exclusion from marriage.

Judge Garcia's decision may be found here.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Governor Rick Perry said that the state will appeal the decision to the Fifth Circuit and, if necessary, to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Texas case, along with similar ones from Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Kentucky, will soon be reviewed by Appellate Courts. Other state bans are under challenge throughout the country, including Michigan, where a trial is currently underway. It is widely believed that the Supreme Court will decide to review at least one of these cases in the near future.

In the video below, plaintiffs Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman explain why they want their marriage recognized in Texas.

The video below features plaintiffs Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes.

Both couples appear in this report on the February 26 ruling by San Antonio television staion KENS.

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