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Two same-sex couples challenging Texas’ ban on gay marriage

Two same-sex couples challenging Texas’ ban on gay marriage

AUSTIN, Texas — Two same-sex couples have challenged Texas’ constitutional ban on gay marriage in a San Antonio federal court, and a federal judge could hear arguments as soon as January, an attorney for the couples said Wednesday.

Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman
Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman

Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss
Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss

In court papers, the couples say the Texas ban violates their right to get married and to enjoy the legal benefits or marriage. They argue a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act suggests that bans on same-sex marriage violate the federal constitution and they want the judge to issue an injunction against enforcing the Texas law.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has pledged to defend the law, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2005.

“There is no rational basis, much less a compelling government purpose, for Texas to deny plaintiffs the same right to marry enjoyed by the majority of society,” attorney Barry Chasnoff said.

The plaintiffs include a lesbian couple living in Austin, Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, who were legally married in Massachusetts in 2009 and have a young son together.

“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,” Dimetman said in a statement.

The other is Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss of Plano, who have been together 16 years and want to marry in Texas.

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Abbott spokeswoman Lauren Bean said the attorney general will defend the state law.

“The U.S. Supreme Court was clear that states have independent authority to establish their marriage laws,” she said. “Texans adopted a constitutional amendment defining marriage. We will defend that amendment.”

Sixteen states allow or recognize same-sex marriage, along with federal agencies, including the Pentagon. The Texas National Guard agreed on Tuesday to beg in processing applications for benefits filed by same-sex couples after initially arguing it would violate state law.

Another lawsuit by a same-sex couple married outside of Texas has asked the Texas Supreme Court for the right to divorce in Texas.

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