Texas AG seeks to block probate judge’s same-sex marriage ruling

Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Texas)

Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Texas) AP

AUSTIN, Texas — Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the Supreme Court of Texas to reaffirm the state’s ban on same-sex marriage after a probate judge ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.

Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Texas)AP

Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Texas)

In a news release issued Wednesday, Paxton said Probate Judge Guy Herman’s “misguided ruling does not change Texas law or allow the issuance of a marriage license to anyone other than one man and one woman.”

Paxton late Tuesday filed emergency motions with the state Supreme Court seeking to overturn Herman’s ruling and uphold the statewide ban.

He said that Herman “committed a clear abuse of discretion” by declaring the ban unconstitutional, adding that Herman’s ruling may compel same-sex couples to seek marriage licenses in Texas – and district clerks to mistakenly grant them.

Herman could not be reached for comment.

The Tuesday ruling, which applied only to Travis County, came in an order addressing a dispute over the estate of Stella Powell, who died in June. Sonemaly Phrasavath had sought to have her relationship with Powell be deemed a common-law marriage, thus entitling her to a portion of Powell’s estate.

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The ruling caused a flurry of activity at the Travis County courthouse. Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir called Herman’s order “a great step toward marriage equality” but added she would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples “at the present time.”

Last year, a federal judge declared Texas’ same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional but put the ruling on hold pending appeal. The case is now being considered by a panel of the New Orleans-based U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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