Judge To Hear Challenge Of Texas’ Gay Marriage Ban
AUSTIN, Texas -- Two homosexual couples challenging Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage will take their case to federal court on Wednesday in the wake of recent legal victories in two other conservative states.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia is expected to decide whether to temporarily block the law, approved by voters in 2005, until a trial can be held in the couples’ case. Similar lawsuits have been filed in 22 other states, but the Texas lawsuit is the first of its kind in the region covered by the southern and deeply conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case will likely end up.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican running for governor, opposes legalizing gay marriage and has vowed to defend the law, a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. But civil rights groups that recently won injunctions against similar bans in Utah and Oklahoma relied on the same argument being cited in the Texas case: Banning gay marriage violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the laws in Oklahoma and Utah to remain in effect pending a ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. If that court rules in favor of gay marriage later this year, it could clear the way for same-sex weddings in those and four neighboring states.
Garcia, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, could make a ruling from the bench on Wednesday or issue a written ruling later.
Wednesday’s hearing combines two cases, one from Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit complaining that Texas’ ban unconstitutionally denies them the fundamental right to marry because of their sexual orientation. The other lawsuit was filed by Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, who argue that Texas officials are violating their rights and those of their 2-year-old child by not recognizing their marriage license from Massachusetts.