AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ gay marriage ban will remain in effect while the litigation challenging its constitutionality continues, a U.S. District Court judge in San Antonio has ruled.
Judge Orlando Garcia had previously ruled back in February that the law was unconstitutional, according to a report by the San Antonio Express-News. Anticipating an appeal from the State of Texas, Garcia also entered what is known as a “stay,” maintaining the status quo of the law while the appeals continue. As expected, the government did file an appeal to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
The plaintiffs who filed the complaint challenging the law — two couples named Nicole Dimetman and Cleopatra De Leon, and Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes — filed a request in November for Garcia to lift the stay, arguing that a decision by the United States Supreme Court in October declining to review gay marriage cases from five other states meant that they were likely to succeed in their case and the stay should be lifted, according to the Express-News. The Supreme Court’s decision resulted in legalizing gay marriage in those states — Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana, and Wisconsin — and a total of 35 states now permit some form of same-sex marriage.
In issuing his ruling, Garcia seemed sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ claims but predicted that if he had lifted the stay, he would be quickly overruled by the Fifth Circuit, but there would be a rush to the courthouse by couples seeking to get married in the interim, whose marriages would then have an uncertain legal status.
“Lifting the stay would not bring finality to this Fourteenth Amendment claim,” wrote Garcia. “To the contrary, such action would only be temporary, with confusion and doubt to follow. The day for finality and legal certainty in the long and difficult journey for equality is closer than ever before.”
Several County Clerk offices in Texas had announced that if the stay was lifted, they would extend office hours to handle the expected rush of same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses. Some, like Bexar County Clerk Gerard Rickhoff had even planned to stay open 24 hours a day.
The next step in this case is oral arguments before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on January 5th.
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons.
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