Gay in the Lone Star State
Surprise ruling declares Texas ban on gay marriage unconstitutional — but what's next?
A federal judge in San Antonio has overturned a 2005 amendment banning gay marriage. U.S. Judge Orlando Garcia joins a growing number of federal judges in states like Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky and, more recently, Virginia, who have declared bans on gay marriage are in violation of the United States Constitution. Currently, gay marriage is legal in 17 states and Washington, D.C.
In his official order, Garcia writes, "Today’s court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent."
The ruling was made after a lawsuit filed in last October by Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes who, alongside another same sex couple, sued the state of Texas for the right to marry. Phariss and Holmes, who make their home in West Plano near Dallas, were profiled in the February issue of Texas Monthly. In it, they explain their hesitation at becoming the public face of such a hotly contented issue. But ultimately, their desire to remain in the shadows was eclipsed by a greater desire for action.
In the Texas Monthly interview, Holmes said,
"There’s this phenomenon where someone is in trouble and needs an ambulance, and everybody says, 'Call 911,' and everybody assumes someone else is going to do it, and nobody winds up doing it," said Holmes. "I didn’t see anybody else doing this, so I thought, 'Okay, I’ll be the one who makes the call.'"
Of course reaction to the news on Twitter and social media has been swift from both sides of the gay marriage debate. San Antonio Mayor — and Democratic darling — Julian Castro tweeted:
Not to be outdone, Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst lamented the decision, tweeting,
Today's ruling on gay marriage by a SA federal judge undermines the values of an overwhelming majority of TX voters. http://t.co/4eFFlJsSWa— David Dewhurst (@DavidHDewhurst) February 26, 2014
And while it's certainly a win for civil rights activists like Phariss and Holmes, it doesn't mean same sex couples should be lining up at the court house just yet. While Garcia overturned the ban on gay marriage, he has stayed the ruling, meaning he's postponed it from going into effect until Texas lawmakers have the opportunity to appeal to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
This being Texas — and Attorney General Greg Abbott being, well, who he is — that will most certainly happen.