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Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas’ Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

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It was a major legal victory for the American gay community and gay-right advocates  on Wednesday February 26th 2014 as a United States federal judge struck down the same-sex marriage ban operative in the state of Texas.

In his ruling, the judge stated that the laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman violated the United States Constitution; and that the amendment to the state Constitution that Texas voters approved in 2005 defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Thus the law, according to him, denied gay couples the right to marry and demeaned their dignity “for no legitimate reason.”

New York Times reports:

“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” wrote Judge Orlando L. Garcia of United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, in San Antonio.

Texas Democrats and supporters of gay rights praised the ruling as a milestone in gay equality, in a state where a law criminalizing gay sexual conduct remains on the books more than a decade after the Supreme Court ruled that law was unconstitutional. Chad Griffin, the president of the gay rights group the Human Rights Campaign, called it “a historic day in the heart of the South.”

Republicans denounced the ruling as an attempt by “an activist federal judge” to overturn the will of Texas voters. In November 2005, voters approved the amendment to the state Constitution banning same-sex marriage.

“The 10th Amendment guarantees Texas voters the freedom to make these decisions, and this is yet another attempt to achieve via the courts what couldn’t be achieved at the ballot box,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement.

The ruling by Judge Garcia, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, was the latest in a series of decisions overturning bans or lifting restrictions on same-sex marriage in several states. A federal judge overturned Virginia’s ban this month, a day after Kentucky was told to honor same-sex marriages performed in other states. In Oklahoma, the state’s amendment barring same-sex marriage was recently ruled unconstitutional.

Many legal experts predict that one or more of these cases will be taken up by the United States Supreme Court in the next year or two, particularly if the federal appellate courts reach conflicting conclusions. The Fifth Circuit, where the Texas case was headed, is known as one of the country’s most conservative appeals panels.

Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general and the Republican front-runner for governor, expressed confidence the Fifth Circuit would rule in the state’s favor. “The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that states have the authority to define and regulate marriage,” Mr. Abbott said in a statement. “The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman. If the Fifth Circuit honors those precedents, then today’s decision should be overturned and the Texas Constitution will be upheld.”

In the case that was before Judge Garcia, lawyers for a gay couple and a lesbian couple who sued the state had argued that the ban on same-sex marriage perpetuated discrimination and put a financial, legal and emotional burden on gay couples.

One of the couples in the case, Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, traveled to Boston in 2009 to marry, but under one law overturned on Wednesday, Texas does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Ms. De Leon is the biological mother of the couple’s 2-year-old son, but Ms. Dimetman had to adopt the child because Texas did not consider her the child’s parent.

“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,” they said Wednesday in a statement.

Before the proposed constitutional amendment was placed on the ballot in 2005, Mr. Perry ceremonially signed the measure using the school of an evangelical church in Fort Worth as a backdrop. Mr. Perry and other top Republicans have long backed the laws prohibiting same-sex marriage using religious imagery and language.

Todd Staples, a former Republican lawmaker who is now running for lieutenant governor, remarked on Twitter recently: “I will change my definition of marriage when God changes his.”

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