Texas State Judge Overturns Same-Sex Marriage Ban In Estate Fight


On Tuesday afternoon, Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman ruled that Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. The ruling came as part of an estate fight, and its implications are not yet evident.

Austin resident Sonemaly Phrasavath sought to have her eight-year relationship with her wife Stella Powell recognized as a common-law marriage. The two had held a marriage ceremony that was not legally binding under the state, but aside from being a same-sex couple, they fit the state definition of a common-law marriage. Powell died of colon cancer last summer and had not left a valid will and two of her siblings challenged Phrasavath’s claim to the marriage. She explained that the case was “about standing up for my relationship and my marriage. If I didn’t do that, I would absolutely have no voice.”

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir praised the decision, but didn’t immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She is eager to do so, however, and is “scrambling” to see if she can in light of the ruling.

Herman’s ruling follows a federal judge’s ruling last year similarly overturning the ban on same-sex marriage. That decision is currently stayed while the Fifth Circuit considers it; a decision could be forthcoming any day, but the court could also wait until the Supreme Court issues a ruling this summer. How these other proceedings will impact the fate of the new state court ruling remains unclear.