Federal Judge Rules Texas Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional

CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay

Plaintiffs Cleopatra De Leon, Nicole Dimetman, Victor Holmes, and Mark Phariss.

A federal judge has ruled that Texas’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the equal protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. According to Judge Orlando Garcia, a Clinton appointee, the state’s marriage laws deny same-sex couples the right to marry, and therefore “demean their dignity for no legitimate reason.” Garcia stayed his decision pending appeal, so same-sex couples cannot begin marrying yet.

The case was brought by two couples: Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss, who want to marry in Texas, and Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, who want their Massachusetts marriage recognized. Dimetman and De Leon are raising a child together. The ruling would prevent the state from enforcing its 2003 law and 2005 constitutional amendment that limited marriage to opposite-sex couples. Voters passed that amendment by a 3-to-1 margin, but a plurality of Texans now support marriage equality.

According to the ruling, not only are these families denied benefits under the law, they are also subjected to “state sanctioned discrimination, stigma, and humiliation,” explaining: “In this case, it is clear that Plaintiffs suffer humiliation and discriminatory treatment under the law on the basis of their sexual orientation, and this stigmatic harm flows directly from Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage.” Garcia cited Windsor, the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, noting that not recognizing same-sex marriages “demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects.”

Garcia also dismissed the state’s arguments that banning same-sex marriage was somehow worthwhile to protect children or promote procreation. Echoing the similar ruling in Utah, he ruled that the ban only hurts the children of same-sex couples while doing nothing to affect whether heterosexual couples marry or how they raise their children.

Preempting responses from conservatives accusing him of judicial activism or overturning the will of the people, Garcia concluded by pointing out that he is simply enforcing the U.S. Constitution:

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 States 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 is the seventh federal judge to rule against a federal ban on same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act last summer, following rulings in Illinois, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah.