The timing couldn't have been better for Houston supporters of marriage equality and gay rights.
On the eve of the annual Pride Parade in downtown Houston on Saturday night, the news that the Supreme Court has ruled that same sex couples nationwide have the right to marry promises to add a special touch of celebration to the festivities.
Mayor Annise Parker was quick to issue a statement soon after the Supreme Court ruling was announced Friday morning:
At last! What a joyous, historic day for America, the LGBT community, individual families, the institution of marriage and the fight for equality. I used to think that I would not see this day in my lifetime. In recent years, however, it’s been clear that personal hearts and minds, and the courts, were headed in this direction. Marriage is about love, commitment, and family. Couples who make that commitment deserve to be respected under law, with the full legal protections that accompany a marriage license. Finally, they are!"
Mayor Parker and her partner of more than two decades, Kathy Hubbard, were married in January 2014 in California.
Gus Reyes, director of the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission, was also quick to respond:
Despite the Court’s ruling today, the Christian Life Commission continues to support and affirm biblical marriage as a holy union between one man and one woman. We respect the Supreme Court decision as the law of the land, but we believe in One who is higher than national laws, and ultimately we must submit to God’s authority. Marriage is a God-designed and God-ordained institution, and no Supreme Court decision can redefine what has been defined by God."
Reyes recommended that churches adopt bylaws and employment policies that protect the church property from use in same-sex ceremonies.
In a 5-4 decision, the nation's highest court ruled that gay and lesbian couples have a fundamental right to marry under the U.S. constitution.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage,” Justice Kennedy said of the couples challenging state bans on same-sex marriage, according to the New York Times. “Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in a dissent joined by Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said the Constitution had nothing to say on the subject.
In Texas, proponents were scrambling to determine where and when same-sex couples can marry and what exactly what the Supreme Court’s ruling means. The Texas for Marriage website is providing up-to-the-minute details.
The Houston Chronicle compiled an easy-to-follow Q&A on the situation. Any couple wishing to wed must apply for a marriage license at the county clerk's office and, in many cases, wait at least 72 hours before being married by a judge or authorized religious official.
While clerks in Austin and Dallas have said they would immediately issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said he would wait for state guidance before issuing such licenses. CultureMap will update this story as more information is received.
UPDATE: At 3 p.m. Harris County attorney Vince Ryan and Stanart announced at a press conference that Harris County has started issuing same sex marriage licenses and waived the 72-hour waiting period. A number of marriages immediately were performed, several by 125th District Judge Kyle Carter.