By Lisa Keen
A federal judge in San Antonio, Texas, ruled Wednesday that Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution and demeans the dignity of gay couples “for no legitimate reason.” Judge Orlando Garcia then granted two plaintiff couples’ request for an injunction barring the state from enforcing the ban. But, like federal district court judges in Virginia and Utah, Garcia stayed his ruling pending appeal of the case to the federal appeals level.
The Garcia ruling was in DeLeon v. Texas, in which two same-sex couples challenged the state’s statutory ban and its state constitutional ban on marriages for same-sex couples. One couple had married in Massachusetts and sought recognition in Texas; the second couple sought to marry in Texas.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced immediately that his office would appeal the decision to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. He expressed optimism that the bans would prevail on appeal.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that States have the authority to define and regulate marriage,” said Abbott. “The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman. If the Fifth Circuit honors those precedents, then today’s decision should be overturned and the Texas Constitution will be upheld.”
Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry was more defiant, saying, “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,” said Perry, “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.”
Supporters of marriage equality were, naturally, happy.
“This ruling is one more step toward the inevitable end of official discrimination by the state of Texas,” said Rebecca Robertson, legal director for ACLU-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.”
Judge Garcia and at least five other federal judges to rule on state bans of marriage for same-sex couples in the past eight months have all cited the U.S. v. Windsor decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. In that decision, the nation’s highest court said the federal government cannot refuse to recognize a valid marriage license from a state. Garcia noted that lower courts must apply that ruling “and decide whether a state can do what the federal government cannot–discriminate against same-sex couples.”
As if anticipating Perry’s reaction, Judge Garcia said, in the conclusion of his decision, that “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 State 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. Furthermore, Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from passing legislation born out of animosity against homosexuals (Romer), has extended constitutional protection to the moral and sexual choices of homosexuals (Lawrence), and prohibits the federal government from treating state-sanctioned opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages differently (Windsor).”
Garcia ruled that the Texas bans violate the guarantees of due process and equal protection of the U.S. Constitution.
A federal judge in Michigan began hearing testimony Tuesday in a lawsuit