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Texas: Federal judge strikes down state’s gay marriage ban

Ruling says state’s prohibition violates US constitution

Federal Judge Orlando Garcia has ruled that Texas’s gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional. Credit: hrw.com

“Texas’ current marriage laws deny homosexual couples the right to marry, and in doing so, demean their dignity for no legitimate reason. Accordingly, the Court finds these laws are unconstitutional and hereby grants a preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from enforcing Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage,” federal Judge Orlando Garcia ruled Feb 26.

Garcia put his ruling on hold pending the final outcome of any appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case was brought by two couples — Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman and Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss. 

The Texas legislature’s ban on same-sex marriage came into effect in 1997 with the enactment of a provision of the state’s family code that prohibited the clerk of any Texas county from “issuing a marriage license to persons of the same gender.” Six years later, the state legislature amended the family code to prevent the recognition of same-sex marriages conducted in other jurisdictions.

Garcia states that while Texas has the “unquestioned authority” to regulate and define marriage, it “must  nevertheless do so in a way that does not  infringe on an individual’s constitutional rights.”

He continues, “These rights vest in every person whom the Constitution protects and, because they are so important, an individual’s fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote and may not depend on the outcome of elections.”

Garcia notes that the defendants in the Texas case, including Governor Rick Perry and Attorney-General Greg Abbott, argue that the right to marry does not include the right to same-sex marriage.

In his ruling, Garcia says Texas cannot define marriage in such a way that it denies its citizens the “freedom of personal choice” in deciding whom they can marry.