It's victory day for gay rights! A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Texas' ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, stating that the ban denies the legal right of equal protection to same-sex couples. It's the latest in a recent slew of victories for marriage equality across the country. However, this doesn't mean gay Texans can get married immediately in the state: The ban will be left in effect for now, pending an anticipated appeal of District Judge Orlando Garcia's ruling.
Unfortunately, this means that opponents of gay marriage in Texas have one more chance to deny equal marriage rights. Until they ultimately lose their battle — if they do — Texas' same-sex spouses-to-be must wait.
When he sided with the rapidly-hardening recent legal precedent in regard to marriage equality, U.S. District Judge Garcia knew that his decision wouldn't be unanimously supported the super-conservative state. Fortunately, as Garcia pointed out, civil rights and equal protection shouldn't be decided by the court of public opinion.
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. Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution.
The suit that prompted Garcia's decision was brought by two same-sex couples: Plano residents Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes, and Austin residents Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman. Their lawyers argued that the Supreme Court's position made it effectively inevitable that the state's ban would eventually be killed on constitutional grounds.
Ultimately, Judge Garcia's opinion called the ban demeaning "for no legitimate reason."
Back in 2005, Texans approved a statewide ban on gay marriage by a staggering 76 percent vote. Garcia's decision Wednesday to buck that majority — although, it must be pointed out, the Texas public has increasingly gotten on board with marriage equality in the last deacde — will rankle a lot of conservatives, religious fundamentalists, or garden-variety haters.
But that's the thing about equality laws: The right to be protected by the law as an equal, full and free citizen is what arguably gets American society closer to its creative ideal than anything else. And when it comes to state-sanctioned discrimination, as Judge Garcia found, the Constitution just won't tolerate it.
Texas state senator Dan Patrick Tweeted the following:
Leaving his reasoning behind for a moment, there was another major problem with this Tweet: Patrick initially typed "MARRIAGE = ONE MAN & ONE MAN" in his haste to post about the ruling. He swiftly removed the Tweet, but not before Talking Points Memo, amongst others, had screenshotted it.
The ruling will almost surely be appealed, of course, by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (who is also in the midst of a gubernatorial run against Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis.) Which means there's a very real chance that this challenge to Texas' ban could become a key issue in the gubernatorial race.
Davis supports same-sex marriage rights, and recently called on Abbott to stop defending the ban. Go, Wendy!
Image: Twitter/Talking Points Memo