Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Ban on Gay Marriage


A federal judge has struck down Texas' ban on gay marriage, relying on the Supreme Court's decision in the Edie Windsor case to do so.

TexasTwo couples are involved in the case. Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes decided to file suit after being denied a license in San Antonio in October. And Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, who were married in Massachusetts, say Texas officials are violating their rights and those of their child by not recognizing their marriage. Attorney Daniel McNeel Lane represents both couples.

LoneStarQ reports:

U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia granted a preliminary injunction that would bar Texas from enforcing the bans pending trial.

However, Garcia stayed his decision pending an appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Even if he had not stayed the decision, the preliminary injunction would have applied only to the two same-sex couples who filed the lawsuit challenging the marriage bans, known as DeLeon v. Perry.

“The issue before this court is whether Texas’ current definition of marriage is permissible under the United States Constitution,” Garcia wrote in his 48-page decision. “After careful consideration, and applying the laws as it must, the Court holds that Texas’ prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process,” Garcia wrote. “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’ bans on same-sex marriage.”

Read the ruling here.

LoneStarQ adds:

In granting the preliminary injunction Garcia found the plaintiffs met a four-pronged test: They showed a likelihood of success at trial; they showed that continued enforcement of the marriage bans would cause irreparable harm; they showed that this harm outweighs any potential harm to the defendants; and they showed that an injunction would serve the public interest.

The case went before Garcia in February.

The Dallas Morning News adds:

“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,” he said in his order. “Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution.”

But Garcia’s ruling, while a major victory for groups seeking to make marriage legal for gay and lesbian couples nationwide, will not win them Texas marriage licenses anytime soon.

Although Garcia issued a preliminary injunction against the state’s enforcing its 2003 law and 2005 constitutional amendment that limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, he stayed it from taking effect until his ruling can be reviewed on appeal.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, is almost certain to appeal. Most legal experts expect Garcia’s ruling, or similar ones by federal judges in other states, to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case he ruled on was brought by two gay men from Plano who want to get married and two Austin lesbians who want Texas to recognize their out-of-state marriage. It is one of three federal lawsuits challenging the Texas ban — and the furthest along. Nationally, similar battles are underway in federal courts in 23 states.

Federal judges in Kentucky, Virginia, Utah and Oklahoma have all struck down state bans on gay marriage since the Supreme Court DOMA decision last June.


  1. JackFknTwist says

    “….demean their dignity with for no legitimate reason.”

    Read it and weep, religious right.
    “No legitimate reason”
    means that it does not undermine your self styled ‘traditional marriage’.

    But it also implies that there may well be illegitimate reasons that you want to demean our dignity.
    I can think of one – bigotry.

  2. Hey Darlin' says

    Wooow! If this big red state can’t force same sex couples to live under a different standard then there’s huge hope for all southern states.

  3. disgusted american says

    excellent news!! wooohooooo….Que Ms Perkin’s and Brian Brown’s Outrage in 5…4..3..

  4. RTHK says

    With the 17 states and DC that already have marriage equality plus the now four states with stays, that’s over 50% of the US population. Huge milestone.

  5. gr8guyca says

    Until this ends up in the Supreme Court, there will be states kicking and screaming to fight equal marriage rights. But the more lower court decisions that come along to affirm gay marriage, the more certain it is that the Supreme Court will go along.

    The Supreme Court has been afraid to be too far ahead of popular opinion. Justice Ginsburg feels that Roe v. Wade created the strong “pro-life” movement. She doesn’t want the recognition of gay marriage to create a backlash.

    For many reasons, time is on our side. In reality, the battle is over. We won, although it may take another few years before we can savor the complete victory.

  6. MiddleoftheRoader says

    The LoneStarQ report is a bit incorrect in saying that the ruling applies only to the2 couples who sued. In footnote 7 of his opinion, Judge Garcia made it clear that his opinion applies generally to all same-sex couples who want to marry in Texas or who were married elsewhere but want their marriage recognized in Texas.

    It’s correct that the decision was “stayed” — meaning until the federal court of appeals issues a ruling (many months from now), Texas same-sex couples will still not be allowed to get married(or be recognized as married).

  7. JD says

    They’ve long threatened to secede from the rest of the country so maybe this will help. They get far more from the federal government back than they pay into it in taxes, something they don’t seem to realize. When they’re on their own they will. The only good part of Texas is Austin.

  8. woody says

    wow. i guess all these judges–oklahoma, utah, ohio, texas, virginia–are all activists. i guess activist judges are the norm. who’d of thought?

  9. Sergio says

    Given that sparkling personality, JD, I think it’s safe to say that none of the marriage equality posts will be relevant to you.

  10. Francis says

    Time is on our side, but we’re one retirement and Republican-presidential elect away from major issues. Which is why we need SCOTUS to rule on this as soon as possible. Preferably next year, but most believe it will be 2017 at the earliest. State bans are going down; marriage equality advocates have done a great job targeting judges favorable to equality. The process is working but it all really comes down to what SCOTUS does and when.

    Will be interesting, as well, to see what Circuit Courts do. 5th Circuit, 6th, 4th, are conservative Courts. What happens in these Circuits could prove very telling as to what would happen at SCOTUS.

  11. JJ says

    “A federal judge has struck down Texas’ ban on gay marriage”

    Isn’t this is waaay overstating what happened? The actual story seems to be that the couples suing to overturn the ban asked the court to suspend the ban just for them while their main case is pending. This ruling only applies to them, and it’s not a final ruling on the ban. That case still has to make its way through the district court.

  12. woody says

    I remember reading a while back that this texas case might hurt us as it will head to the 5th circuit in NOLA, which is supposed to be pretty conservative–meaning it could render negative ruling while the other circuit courts reviewing the other cases render rulings in our favor. That would reveal a split to the supreme court, which could hurt us as there wouldn’t be unanimity in the rung just below the supremes. At least, that was the logic.

  13. John says

    JJ, although the ruling was technically on a preliminary injunction, it was a ruling on the law in all but the name. The ruling goes through the full analysis of the law in order to determine whether Plaintiffs’ had a likelihood of success (which is required to get a preliminary injunction). There’s no doubt how this judge would rule on the case itself. So it’s just as significant.

    And no, the injunction is against the law and the officials who uphold it, so it would apply to everyone in the state.

  14. TKinSC says

    “Accordingly, this Court finds Plaintiffs have carried their burden of establishing they would suffer irreparable injury if Section 32 continues to be enforced by Defendants…. However…the Court intends to stay execution of this order pending appeal to prevent any legal and practical complications.”

    Way to put the hammer down, Judge!

  15. simon says

    “applying the laws as it must”
    There is only one logical conclusion.
    Woody’s worried that the 5th circuit is pretty conservative. But law is the law. Many previous cases have shown that conservative judges are mostly rational beings except may be Scalia.

  16. Troy says

    I hope they do defend it all the way to the Supreme Court. I think we have better chance there than in a Circuit court.

  17. Robert M. says

    I find it interesting that, so far, no Federal Judge has upheld any of the challenged constitutional bans on same sex marriage. Unless a Federal appeals court overturns one of these rulings, it is entirely possible that none of these cases will be heard by SCOTUS as there has been no disagreement in the lower courts multiple rulings. SCOTUS may just choose to stay out of the fray, allowing these lower court rulings to stand and as such will not have to issue a sweeping ruling. In this manner, the lower Federal courts would be able to clean up the mess state by state without SCOTUS having to issue a ruling that would polarize the anti-gay movement and cause decades of strife as we have seen with Roe Vs Wade…

  18. tinhouston says

    welllllll we all know we have a lot bigots down here in Texas, so there’s gonna be much hot air coming our way. then, i remember we have a recently married gay mayor.

  19. says

    Justice Garcia
    “Section 32(b) demeans one group by depriving them of rights
    provided for others.”

    How are state civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination that don’t include (or specifically exclude) LGBT any different?

    Marriage is a civil right. Freedom from discrimination is a civil right. On what basis can states EXCLUDE LGBT in their enacted civil rights protection laws?

  20. Randy says

    I am delighted that this has happened in Texas, where I used to live. Too bad it was too late for my own marriage.

    It appears there’s a small mistake in here:
    “The notion that same-sex marriage* will encourage responsible procreation assumes that heterosexual marriage is ‘naturally procreative.’ ”
    *The word “bans” should be here.

  21. Randy says

    I really like this part:
    “As noted by Plaintiffs during oral argument, ‘the Fourteenth Amendment– [including] the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause [found within] was ratified by the American people and made law. That is a protection that was voted upon. And a citizen in the United States does not have to go to the ballot box to secure equal protection of the laws.'”

  22. Randy says

    LonestarQ said:

    “Even if he had not stayed the decision, the preliminary injunction would have applied only to the two same-sex couples who filed the lawsuit challenging the marriage bans, known as DeLeon v. Perry.”

    And LonestarQ is incorrect. The decision itself says (you really have to love footnotes):

    “The Court disagrees. Rule 65(d) […] does not limit the applicability of the injunction — that is, who is affected by the injunction. In this case, because Plaintiffs brought a facial challenge to Section 32, the Court’s injunction applies to all same-sex couples who wish to marry in Texas or want to have their out-of-state same-sex marriage recognized in Texas.”

    Even better (same footnote):

    “Defendants have failed to provide any — and the Court finds no — rational basis that banning same-sex marriage furthers a legitimate governmental interest; that is, the Court finds ‘no set of circumstances’ under which Section 32 would be valid.”

  23. Mark says

    Arizona became a US state on February 14, 1912. Fell to gays on February 26, 2014. Alien landing February 27, 2114.