Probate judge rules Texas same‑sex marriage ban unconstitutional


AUSTIN, Texas — A judge in Travis County, Texas, on Tuesday ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, but the impact of the ruling remains unclear and the County Clerk declined to take any immediate action on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

TexasThe Austin American Statesman reports that Probate Judge Guy Herman made the ruling in an estate fight in which Austin resident Sonemaly Phrasavath sought to have her eight-year relationship to Stella Powell deemed to have been a common-law marriage.

In a statement, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir called Herman’s order “a great step toward marriage equality,” but added that the judge didn’t instruct the county clerk to “begin to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

DeBeauvoir said, therefore, she won’t do so “at the present time.”

Herman’s ruling came after a hearing in which Phrasavath challenged the constitutionality of the gay marriage ban as a first step toward establishing her relationship as a common-law marriage.

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The couple began living together in Austin in 2007, followed by a marriage ceremony that, though not recognized under Texas law, was performed a year later by a Zen priest.

Powell died without a valid will last June, eight months after she was diagnosed with colon cancer, leading to a legal fight over her estate between Phrasavath and two of Powell’s siblings.

Texas’ same-sex marriage ban was previously struck down by a federal judge in February 2014, but the decision was stayed pending and state’s appeal to the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The appeals court heard arguments in January but has not yet issued a ruling.

A copy of the order is here

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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