Federal judge strikes down Texas gay marriage ban; preliminary injunction issued

10:09 PM, Feb 26, 2014   |    comments
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Victor Holmes (left) and Mark Phariss



 PDF Document: Order granting PI

AUSTIN, Texas (KENS) - Two weeks after two same-sex couples pleaded for the state of Texas not to ban gay marriage, a district federal judge has ruled on the controversial case.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia granted the couples a preliminary injunction, which would strike down the same-sex marriage ban, pending the outcome of any appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Read the ruling here. (PDF)

On Feb. 12, a federal courtroom in San Antonio became the epicenter of the debate over Texas' same-sex marriage ban and whether it holds up under the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled Wednesday afternoon on a pre-trial request to temporarily bar Texas from enforcing its ban while a lawsuit filed by two gay couples proceeds.

Plaintiffs Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss allege the 2005 ban treats the LGBT community unequally.

"We are extremely happy -- happy beyond words -- with Judge Garcia's decision.  Having been together almost 17 years, we look forward to the day when we can get married and when all gay Texans enjoy equal rights to marry as well," Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes said in a press release about the ruling.  

"Today, Judge Garcia affirmed that the Equal Protection Clause applies to all Texans.  We are delighted by that decision, and we expect that, if appealed, it will be upheld," according to the release. 

Judge Garcia acknowledged two weeks ago that this issue will probably be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in a divided vote.

"Today we've taken a great step towards justice for our family," Nicole Dimetman and Cleopatra De Leon said in a press release about the ruling. 

"We are thrilled with the ruling and remain hopeful that this matter will continue to move quickly through the courts. Ultimately, the repeal of Texas' ban will mean that our son will never know how this denial of equal protections demeaned our family and belittled his parents' relationship. We look forward to the day when, surrounded by friends and family, we can renew our vows in our home state of Texas," the couple said according to the release. 

"You can't just use any common characteristic of married couples to say that that's a justification for restricting same-sex marriage," plaintiff's attorney Neil Lane said.

"Same-sex parents have the same issues, the same challenges and the same property issues that opposite couples have."

The state went before a U.S. federal district court judge and said 150 years of Texas tradition and history can't be re-written with one injunction.

"The people have weighed in and this issue is settled as it has been for many years," Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz said. "If the folks that are advocating for redefining marriage think that their arguments have merit and they have the will of the people, take it to the Capitol."

"It was love at first sight for me," Mark Phariss said.

The couple wants to get married, but when they applied for a marriage license last October, they said the Bexar County clerk's office refused to issue it because Holmes and Phariss are both men.

"She said, 'You're kidding, right?'" Phariss said. "We said, 'Uh, no.' So she essentially said, 'We don't do that in Texas.'"

"There's a dramatic change just since the constitutional ban was passed in 2005," Phariss said.

Gov. Rick Perry continues to back the ban, and state Attorney General Greg Abbott has vowed to defend the ban, as with the case of any state law challenged in court.
""I am gratified-no, thrilled-that Judge Garcia has held that our clients are entitled to enjoy the same rights as other citizens of this state to marry the person they love.  This is a great day for all Texans," Lane said. 
"Judge Garcia has added one more voice to the chorus that is rising around the country, declaring that all citizens have the right to marriage equality.  I am happy for Nichole and Cleo, Marc and Victor, who want nothing more than for their relationships to be treated with dignity," Barry Chasnoff said, an Akin Gump Attorney. 

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