More than two years after filing a federal lawsuit challenging Texas’ same-sex marriage ban, Mark Phariss (above, right) and Vic Holmes will finally tie the knot on Saturday.
The couple plans an elaborate, “Texas-sized” wedding near Dallas that promises to be a media spectacle. Their ceremony will be attended by more than 325 people, including numerous current and former elected officials, according to a 10-page press release.
Phariss’ 5-year-old nephew will present the couple their wedding rings atop American flags that flew over the U.S. Capitol on the days when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments and issued its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The flags were obtained with the help of Sen. Harry Reid.
“Today is the happiest day of our lives,” the couple said in the release. “We have married the person we love more than anything else in the world and we have done so in the state we love and call home.”
The couple recently received a congratulatory letter from President Barack Obama (right). Former Congressman Charlie Gonzalez will officiate their ceremony, which will also be attended by Gordon Tanner, general counsel for the Air Force; Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the nation’s first lesbian Latina sheriff; Judge Tonya Parker, Texas’ first out African-American elected official; co-plaintiffs Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman; and Jack Evans and George Harris, the 54-year couple that was the first to marry in Dallas.
Phariss, an attorney, and Holmes, who spent 23 years in the Air Force before retiring as a major, met in 1997. Joined by DeLeon and Dimetman, Holmes and Phariss filed DeLeon v. Perry in October 2013. In February 2014, a federal district judge struck down Texas’ marriage ban as unconstitutional, but stayed his decision. Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court, which heard oral arguments in January but didn’t issue a decision until after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell.
Phariss became good friends with now-Gov. Abbott, who vigorously defended the ban, when they attended law school together at Vanderbilt University. In fact, Phariss even flew to Houston to visit Abbott’s bedside after he was left paralyzed by a falling tree limb. But Phariss said recently that the couple didn’t invite Abbott to their wedding.
“We want people there who are supportive,” Phariss told The New Civil Rights Movement. “We don’t want a zoo for a wedding, and having Greg there, while that would be a plus in terms of how we’re moving people along, he would never come anyway.”
Watch a report on the couple’s wedding plans from WFAA-TV, and read their full press release, below.
Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, Plaintiffs Who Successfully Sued Texas in DeLeon v. Perry For Right to Marry, Wed After More Than 18 Years Together in Frisco, Texas
What: Mark Phariss & Vic Holmes were married today, Saturday, November 21, 2015, after over 18 years together by former Congressman Charles Gonzalez in the presence of over 325 friends and family – a true Texas-sized wedding.
Quotes from some who attended the wedding:
- Mark Phariss & Vic Holmes: “Today is the happiest day of our lives. We have married the person we love more than anything else in the world and we have done so in the state we love and call home. We wish that everyone may find his or her own true love and experience the same joy as we have today. We appreciate all the support and encouragement we have received from so many throughout our journey for marriage equality, and we thank everyone, particularly our lawyers at Akin Gump, who helped make today’s ceremony possible.”
- Former Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, the officiant: “Our nation was founded on the premise that all persons are created equal with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Today, Mark and Vic finally got to fully exercise those rights after more than 18 years, and I was delighted to be the one to marry them. May they celebrate many more happy years together.”
- Neel Lane, the Akin Gump attorney who represented Phariss & Holmes in DeLeon v. Perry: “We began our journey for equal rights with many uncertainties, but one thing we knew for sure. Mark and Vic loved each other and wished to be married in the state they call home. That was the reason we fought, and it finally happened today. I feel great joy for Mark and Vic and great pride in our country. Love and equality go well together.”
- Gordon Tanner, the General Counsel of the U.S. Air Force: “On this special day, my husband, Robert, and I congratulate Mark and Vic on their wedding surrounded by friends and family from across the nation. Their wedding marks a public commemoration of the love they share for each other as well as the private commitment they made to each other many years ago.As importantly, I want to thank them for their longstanding and public commitment to fairness and equality for all Americans. As the General Counsel of the U.S. Air Force I know firsthand the impact their work had on airmen, sailors, soldiers and marines across the world. Thanks to both of them for making America a better place for us all, as well as to Vic who served our country honorably and admirably in the Air Force for almost 23 years.”
- Dallas County Sheriff Lube Valdez: “It’s so nice to see that a love we share for each other is now recognized by others. Congrats to Mark and Vic.“
- Texas State Senator Jose Menendez, a long-time friend of Phariss & Holmes (Phariss & Holmes are godparents to Menendez’ children): “Celia and I were at Mark and Vic’s first date 18 years ago and we’re delighted we were able to attend their wedding and celebrate their love today. We wish them many more years of love and happiness!”
- State District Judge Tonya Parker: “Mark and Vic fought for this day; they deserve all of its richness and splendor. The only thing that outweighs their courage is their love. We were delighted to share this wonderful day with them.”
- Frank Stenger, the Akin Gump attorney who persuaded his law firm to sue the State of Texas: “I have known Mark and Vic for years and have always known that they were made for each other. Their love and respect for each other has been evident from the start and has strengthened with time. Now they celebrate that indelible bond through marriage. And they have fought the good fight and won the right to wed in their home state of Texas. Their marriage is not only a blessed union, but also a symbol of a pioneering spirit that has led to marriage equality for all gays and lesbians in Texas and in the country. Their legal union is thus both holy and historic, and we thank them for this well-earned gift they have given both to themselves and to others, who now enjoy the benefits of their courage.”
- Greg Phariss, Phariss’ brother and best man: “I am extremely happy for my brother today. I congratulate my brother and Vic, now officially my brother-in-law, and I wish them all of the happiness in the world.”
- Eva Cole, Holmes’ best person: “It has been an honor to have been part of the wedding of 2 people who love each other so greatly, and contribute so much to their community. Their love is a testimony to overcoming boundaries and proving that in the end, love wins.”
- Steve Rudner, Chairman of the Board, Equality Texas: “On their wedding day, we reflect on the sacrifices made and courage exhibited by Mark and Vic in their pioneering roles in the fight for marriage equality. A love so deep that it could not be constrained or denied by the State of Texas, and a love so strong that even the Supreme Court of the United States could feel its power, is certainly one to which we should all aspire.”
- Former State Senator Leticia van de Putte: “One of life’s greatest moments is when two people so in love can join in matrimony with their family and friends present. For Mark and Vic, this moment has been long in coming. Felicidades Maridos!”
- Jack Evans and George Harris, Dallas County’s first same-sex married couple, who married after 54 years together: “We are so honored to have been included in this beautiful ceremony. Our world needs more people like Vic and Mark. LOVE WINS!!”
Quotes from some who couldn’t attend the wedding:
- Bexar County Clerk Gerard Rickhoff, the Republican county clerk whose office denied Phariss & Holmes a marriage license in October 2013 but who personally gave them one in September 2015: “First and foremost, I am happy to be able to finally congratulate Mark & Vic on their nuptials. Although I could not attend their wedding, I was glad to be a part of their journey and to have joined them in making history.”
- County Judge Clay Jenkins: “With grace and compassion, Mark and Vic pursued justice and equality bringing us all to a more perfect union. I congratulate them on their marriage.”
- Betty DeGeneres, Ellen’s mother: “I was honored to have met Mark and Vic on their first date in August 1997 and honored to have been invited to their wedding. I fully intended to go. All plans were made, but you know the old saying – Life is what happens when you’re making other plans – but I was there in spirit.”
- Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry and architect of the national marriage equality movement: “A million lesbian and gay people have gotten legally, joyously married since we won the freedom to marry nationwide in June — and among them now are Mark and Vic. They worked hard for this day, and today their love for, and commitment to, each other as well as our country shone bright deep in the heart of Texas, their home. Mazel tov to the happy (legally married) couple and their family and friends!”
Some Facts About the Wedding:
- Size: The wedding was Texas-sized with over 325 attendees, taking … more than 1/3 of the available rooms at the hotel (and each guest staying at the hotel received a bottle of champagne from the Viansa Vineyards in California, with a special label that read: “From the cellar of Mark & Vic. Thank you for coming to our wedding! 11.21.2015”).
- Wedding Party: The wedding party consisted of 16 – 2 best persons (Mark’s brother, Greg Phariss, from Lawton, Oklahoma, and Vic’s longtime friend, Eva Cole, from San Antonio, Texas, and 14 groomsmen (Dr. Mike Carnahan, Ardmore, Oklahoma; Neal Chadwick, Alexandria, LA; Merritt Clements, San Antonio, Texas; Robert Cruz, Plano, Texas; Dr. Rich Garcia, Dallas, Texas; Christopher Gregory, Vic’s nephew, Pontiac, Michigan; Jeremy Greshin, Simsbury, Connecticut; Austin McAnulla & Daylin McAnulla, Mark’s great nephews, Bethany, Oklahoma; Dan McKim, Brentwood, California; Dr. Brian Smith, St. Louis, Missouri; David Sovell, Scottsdale, Arizona; Jeff Thomas, Dallas, Texas; and Steve Wells, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
- Officiant: The officiant was former Congressman Charles Gonzalez, the son of the late Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez and a longtime friend of Phariss & Holmes from San Antonio who helped them get tickets to Obama’s 1st inauguration in 2008.
- Wedding Vows: Borrowing from W.H. Auden’s poem, Stop All The Clocks, Phariss & Holmes promised: “On this day, in the presence of our family and friends, I, [Mark Phariss or Vic Holmes], take you, [Vic Holmes or Mark Phariss], to be my lawfully wedded husband and with this ring I thee wed. From this day forward as in all days past you shall be my North, my South, my East and West, my working week and my Sunday rest, my noon, my midnight, my talk, my song. I will you love forever and forever be yours.”
- Wedding Rings: Phariss & Holmes’ wedding rings were custom made. Each ring, a gold band, included a diamond from the ring of Phariss’ father, Joe Phariss, deceased for more 29 years (Phariss saved the diamonds for his wedding).
- Ring Bearer and Flags: Phariss’ great nephew, Cathan Brice, age 5, of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, the son of Nikki and Kyle Brice, was the ring bearer. He carried the rings on two flags — one flew over the U.S. Capitol on April 28, 2015, the date SCOTUS held its hearing on marriage equality in the Obergefell case (Phariss and Holmes attended), and the other on June 26, 2015, the date SCOTUS issued its decision in Obergefell; both flags were obtained with the assistance of Senator Harry Reid’s office.
- Flower Girl: The flower girl was Phariss’ cousin, Emily Polen, age 10, of San Antonio, Texas, the daughter of Jeremy and Michelle Polen.
- Surprise Wedding Present: Phariss surprised Holmes with a Pauline Howard painting of both of them on the grounds of the Texas Capitol surrounded by their three beagles, Jake, Abby & Betsy. In the painting Phariss is dressed in his tux and Holmes in his Air Force military dress uniform, the same attire they wore at their wedding. A photo of the painting is attached. This is the 5th painting Pauline Howard, of San Antonio, Texas, has painted for Phariss and Holmes: the first one was painted in 2000 with Phariss and Holmes in the garden of San Antonio’s McNay Art Museum with their two beagles, Winston and Churchill, at their feet (a photo of which is attached), and three other earlier paintings were of each of Phariss/Holmes’ deceased beagles, Winston, Churchill and Clementine.
- Singers and Quartet: Metro Chamber Players of Dallas, Texas, accompanied two singers, Gwen Jones and Steve Olivares, in singing two songs: I’ve Dreamed of You and I Finally Found Someone. Gwen Jones is a family friend of Phariss’ from Lawton, Oklahoma, who has performed with the New York Opera and the San Francisco Opera. Steve Olivares is a friend of Phariss and Holmes from Austin, Texas, who has performed with numerous groups, including the Austin Lyric Opera.
- Cakes and Cake Topper: The cakes were made by Dallas Affaires, one of which is a chocolate cake in the shape of Texas with the U.S. Constitution draped on top, signifying Texas’ obligations under the constitution; the cake topper for the tiered-white cake is of two men, one in a tux and one in the Air Force military dress uniform, with three beagles at their feet. The topper was made by Concarta, the same company who made a topper for Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s wedding cake, a star from Modern Family (see http://www.concartastudio.com/). Phariss and Holmes’ co-plaintiffs, Nicole Dimetman and Cleo DeLeon, helped Phariss and Holmes cut the chocolate cake in the shape of Texas.
- Table Decorations: Flowers of roses and hydrangeas were provided by 21 Parc Floral and Events, Dallas, TX. Quotes from marriage equality cases across the country, including DeLeon v. Perry and Obergefell, were printed, framed and placed on each table. After the wedding, the flowers were donated to The Family Place, a Dallas charity providing assistance to those subject to domestic violence (Phariss serves on its Board of Directors).
- Band: The Dallas band, Icehouse, performed during the brunch/dance (for more info about the band see http://icehouseband.com/about-ice-house/).
- First Dance: In preparation for their first dance, Holmes and Phariss took dance lessons on a twice-weekly basis for the last 4 months at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Plano, Texas. They danced the rumba and jitterbug to a compilation of two songs: Could It Be I’m Falling in Love, by the Spinners, and I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston;
- Registry: In lieu of gifts, Phariss & Holmes requested contributions be made to a charity they support, including Equality Texas Foundation, The Family Place, National Geographic Society, North Texas Food Bank, Operation Kindness, Vanderbilt Law School, and Westminster College.
- Wedding Program: A copy of the wedding program was attached to the media advisory and can be forwarded again upon request.
- Some Attendees: (i) the co-plaintiffs in DeLeon v. Perry, Cleo DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman; (ii) several attorneys from Akin Gump who represented the plaintiffs in DeLeon v. Perry, including Neel Lane, Frank Stenger and Michael Cooley; (iii) the General Counsel of the U.S. Air Force, Gordon Tanner, and his husband, Robert Patlan; (iv) State Senator Jose Menendez and his wife, Cehlia (Mark and Vic are godparents to their children); (v) former state senator and Lt. Gov. candidate last year, Leticia Van de Putte, and her husband, Pete; (vi) Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez & her partner, Dr. Lindsay Browning; (vii) State District Court Judge Tonya Parker and partner, Traci Stonum, (viii) Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith and Equality Texas Chairman of the Board Steve Rudner; (ix) numerous individuals who were at Phariss and Holmems’ first date 18 years ago, including Betty DeGeneres, Ellen’s mother; (x) Dallas’ County’s first same-sex married couple, Jack Evans and George Harris, who were married after 54 years together, (xi) wedding guests from each of Phariss & Holmes’ National Geographic trips to China, New Zealand, Antarctica and Amazon, and (xii) wedding guests from as far away as New York, San Francisco and Oxford, England.
- Wedding website: Mark and Vic’s wedding website with more info can be found at http://www.theknot.com/us/mark-phariss-and-vic-holmes-nov-2015.
Phariss/Holmes’ Background Information:
Phariss and Holmes have been together more than 18 years. They met in the spring of 1997 at the San Antonio home of two friends. At the time, Holmes was in the Air Force and stationed in San Antonio. Phariss was and remains an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas. They quickly developed a friendship that blossomed into a dating relationship. On August 9, 1997, they went on their first date at the home of Guillermo Nicolas for a Human Rights Campaign fundraiser; they celebrate August 9 as their anniversary. After dating for several months, Holmes and Phariss started living together. While living together, Holmes, who had joined the Air Force when he was eighteen, began a military program at Fort Sam Houston to become a physician’s assistant. Upon completing the program, the Air Force stationed Holmes at different bases throughout the country – including San Diego, Biloxi, Mississippi, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Wichita Falls, Texas. Because Phariss continued to live and work in Texas, he and Holmes spent the next eleven years commuting in a long-distance relationship. Depending on where Holmes was serving, Phariss and Holmes would travel as often as every week to every few weeks to see each other. Holmes honorably served our nation for nearly twenty-three years and retired as a Major at the end of 2010. Since Holmes retired from the military, he and Phariss have again shared a home, now in Plano,Texas. On October 3, 2013, they applied for a marriage license from the Bexar County Clerk and were refused, prompting Phariss and Holmes to sue the State of Texas. After the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell, Phariss and Holmes re-applied for a marriage license. On September 25, 2015, Phariss and Holmes traveled to San Antonio and applied for a marriage license with the same County Clerk’s office. This time they received a marriage license, one personally given to them by the Bexar County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff, a Republican who supports marriage equality. Former Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, the officiant and Phariss and Holmes’ wedding, and Frank Stenger, one of their Akin Gump attorneys, were also present for the issuance of the marriage license.
Dates in DeLeon v. Perry:
6/26/2013 – The Supreme Court issued its Windsor decision.
10/3/2013 – Phariss & Holmes apply for a marriage license in the Bexar County Clerk’s office and are refused.
10/28/2013 – DeLeon v. Perry was filed in San Antonio in the federal district court
11/22/2013 – Akin Gump filed a motion for preliminary injunction.
2/12/2014 – The preliminary injunction hearing was held before Judge Orlando Garcia, a federal judge.
2/28/2014 – Judge Garcia issued his decision striking down the Texas Marriage Equality ban
2/29/2014 – The Texas AG’s office filed a notice of appeal with the 5th Circuit.
5/28/2014 – The record was certified by the 5th Circuit
5/30/2014 – The 5th Circuit issued its scheduling order
7/28/2014 –Texas’ Brief was filed at the 5th Circuit
8/4/2014 -Amicus Briefs in support of Texas’ Marriage Ban were filed
9/9/2014 – The Brief for the Texas plaintiffs – Mark Phariss, Vic Holmes, Nicole Dimetman and Cleo DeLeon – was filed
9/16/2014 – Amicus Briefs in support of Marriage Equality were filed
10/10/2014 – Texas’ Reply Brief was filed with the 5th Circuit
1/9/2015 – Oral arguments were held at the 5th Circuit
6/26/2015 – The US Supreme Court issued its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges ruling state marriage bans were unconstitutional
6/26/2015 – Judge Orlando Garcia lifted the stay in DeLeon v. Perry, allowing his February 28, 2014 preliminary injunction to go into effect.
7/1/2015 – The 5th Circuit remanded the case back to Judge Orlando Garcia to issue a final order in DeLeon v. Perry.
7/7/2015 – Judge Orlando Garcia entered a Final Judgment in DeLeon v. Perry, ruling that any ban on same-sex marriages in the State of Texas violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th amendment and entered a permanent injunction barring the state from enforcing its prior ban.