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Judge to hear challenge of Texas’ same-sex marriage ban

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas — Two gay 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.

Lisa Krantz, The San Antonio Express-News (AP)Cleo DeLeon, left, and Nicole Dimetman play with their son at their home in Austin, Texas.

Lisa Krantz, The San Antonio Express-News (AP)
Cleo DeLeon, left, and Nicole Dimetman play with their son at their home in Austin, Texas.

Lisa Krantz, The San Antonio Express-News (AP)Mark Phariss, left, and Victor Holmes at their home in Plano, Texas.

Lisa Krantz, The San Antonio Express-News (AP)
Mark Phariss, left, and Victor Holmes at their home in Plano, Texas.

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 reco gnizing their marriage license from Massachusetts.

Holmes and De Leon are both U.S. Air Force veterans who served in San Antonio, though both couples have since moved away.

“Denial of marriage equality humiliates the children of same sex couples,” Dimetman said. “An injunction gives our son the opportunity to escape that humiliation as he is not yet, but will soon be, old enough to understand and internalize what discrimination is or that it is being directed at him.”

San Antonio attorney Barry Chasnoff said there is no compelling purpose to justify denying his clients’ marriage rights under the 14th Amendment.

“If morality is to be our guide, as defendants may argue, let it be that fine quality of morality enshrined in the Constitution, which requires that we treat all citizens with equal dignity and respect under the law,” the couples’ application for an injunction said. “It is the ingenious character of the Constitution that this equal protection serves to permit members of minority groups to become full participants in society.”

Attorneys general in other states have taken mixed approaches to court challenges to bans on gay marriage. Utah and Oklahoma are fighting rulings lifting their bans. In Nevada and Virginia, attorneys general have chosen not to defend them.

Abbott has said he will support the Texas ban.

“The attorney general’s office will defend the Texas Constitution in this case just as we do in all cases where state laws are challenged in court,” Abbott’s spokeswoman Lauren Bean said. “The U.S. Supreme Court was clear that states have independent authority to establish their marriage laws.”

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25 more reader comments:

  1. GOOD LUCK TEXAS!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:41pm
  2. best of luck to the challengers…come on Texas choose Love!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:43pm
  3. Texas do what’s right

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:44pm
  4. Monique… ♥

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:45pm
  5. Come on Texas! Ready to make my family a whole.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:45pm
  6. Lets go texas!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:47pm
  7. This Texan is hopeful!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:48pm
  8. Show the rednecks that love is equal!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:49pm
  9. Good for u & the rest of us gays. I pray u win

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:50pm
  10. Good luck :). Make a change in our state

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:57pm
  11. Fingered crossed x

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:58pm
  12. Omg please !

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:58pm
  13. Let’s go texas

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:59pm
  14. Love should be the guiding principle, Goodluck Texas !

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:02pm
  15. C’Mon Texas!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:05pm
  16. Fuck that shit and fuck you too try depends for those ashy ankles

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:07pm
  17. Good luck…you’ll need it

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:10pm
  18. It is time to stop judgeing peope for who they Love!!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:28pm
  19. Fuck that shit same sex all the way

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:34pm
  20. Come on Texas. It’s the 21st century. Let’s play catch up. I guess we’ll have to wait for Wendy to make things right.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:24pm
  21. I sure hope so

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:21pm
  22. Come on Texas, fight for equal rights!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:23pm
  23. Let’s go Texas. Show your independent spirit and commitment to all people.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:57pm
  24. Texas needs change

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:57pm
  25. Good luck!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 6:02pm