A federal judge in Texas has just ruled that state's constitutional marriage discrimination amendment is unconstitutional, but stayed his ruling pending appeal.
The San Antonio Express-News reports:
A federal judge in San Antonio has declared Texas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, however, also issued a stay, meaning the ban stays in effect for the time being. One lesbian couple had to go to Massachusetts to get married, and they want Texas to recognize the union. A second gay couple have a courtship of 17 years and want to get married here in their home state. Both sued the state in federal court aiming to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage, saying it is unconstitutional.
In his ruling, Judge Garcia, who was nominated to the federal bench in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton, writes:
"Today's Court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the United States Constitution and Supreme Court precedent. Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution...
"Applying the United States Constitution and the legal principles binding on this Court by Supreme Court precedent, the Court finds that Article I, Section 32 of the Texas Constitution and corresponding provisions of the Texas Family Code are unconstitutional. These Texas laws deny Plaintifs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintifs wish to be married to a person of the same sex. The Court finds this denial violates Plaintifs' equal protection and due process rights under the Fourtenth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
With today's federal court ruling, the marriage equality movement is now 6-0 in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's Windsor decision last June.
The walls of marriage discrimination keep crumbling down. What an amazing step toward the freedom to marry in the Lone Star State! Mark Regnerus, eat your heart out!!
A copy of the judge's order is after the jump (via Equality Case Files), along with reactions from LGBT groups and politicians.
5:13-cv-00982 #73 by Equality Case Files
Human Rights Campaign
Chad Griffin: "This injunction sends a powerful message that gay and lesbian Texans are being harmed every by inequality, and that these plaintiff couples who we're proud to call members of the HRC family are very likely to succeed in striking down Texas' ban on marriage equality. This is a historic day in the heart of the South, and I can't stress enough how important it is to move quickly until loving couples in all 50 states feel the full reach of this victory for equality."
The Texas ruling comes on the heels of a year-long string of electoral, judicial and legislative victories for marriage equality. Recently the New Mexico Supreme Court and federal district judges in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio and Kentucky have ruled in favor of marriage for lesbian and gay couples.
Freedom to Marry
Evan Wolfson: "Today the 6th federal judge in a row has ruled - in Texas - that there is simply no legitimate justification for denying marriage to loving gay and lesbian couples. The court's holding is solid and serious, and follows the language and logic of the Supreme Court's marriage ruling last year and the Constitution's clear command. With 47 marriage cases in 25 states now moving forward, and the possibility that a freedom to marry case will again reach the Supreme Court as soon as 2015, we must continue the conversations and progress -- Texan to Texan, American to American -- that show that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry."
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Rea Carey: "Everything is bigger in Texas and this ruling is an enormous leap forward for same-sex couples in the Lone Star State. Every time a judge strikes down a same-sex marriage ban, is yet another nail in the coffin of discrimination. It also hastens the day when all loving couples who simply want the ability to share the benefits and responsibilities of marriage can. While this ruling will now go to a higher court, and marriages in Texas will not happen immediately, this is a great day for love, freedom and justice."
Executive Director Chuck Smith: "Today's ruling by Judge Garcia is a huge victory that moves Texas one step closer to the freedom to marry. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Windsor made it clear that animus or moral disapproval is not an acceptable justification for denying any American their constitutional right to equal protection of the law. We are gratified to see Judge Garcia uphold the Constitution of the United States and declare that Texas' restrictions on the freedom to marry are unconstitutional and unenforceable. We anxiously await the day when the United States Supreme Court will reach the same conclusion."
ACLU of Texas
Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director: "This ruling is one more step toward the inevitable end of official discrimination by the state of Texas. Gay and lesbian couples want the same thing as other loving couples -- to stand before family and friends and declare their lifetime commitment to each other, and to enjoy the same recognition and protection for their families that only marriage can bring. We applaud the judge's preliminary ruling, but we also recognize that there is a great deal of hard work to do to bring full equality to every Texan."
Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry
"Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our Constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens. The 10th Amendment guarantees Texas voters the freedom to make these decisions, and this is yet another attempt to achieve via the courts what couldn't be achieved at the ballot box. We will continue to fight for the rights of Texans to self-determine the laws of our state."
Texas Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott
"This is an issue on which there are good, well-meaning people on both sides. And, as the lower court acknowledged today, it's an issue that will ultimately be resolved by a higher court. Texas will begin that process by appealing today's ruling to the Fifth Circuit. Because the judge has stayed his own decision, his ruling has no immediate practical effect. Instead, the ultimate decision about Texas law will be made by the Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court."