First Gay Couple Marries in Texas: Texas Leaders Respond

Texas Gay Marriage
Austin, TX

The first gay marriage in Texas history happened in Austin on Thursday afternoon. Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, both of Austin, went to the Travis County Clerk immediately after obtaining a court order in their favor, obtained a license, and were married. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a Emergency Motion for Temporary Relief with the Texas Supreme Court, arguing that the rulings from the Travis County Courts were incorrect and seeking to stop any additional same sex marriages from taking place.

According to a report by Texas Lawyer, Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman issued an order on Tuesday that found the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional because it violated due process and equal protection. After that ruling, 126th District Judge David Wahlberg of Austin issued a separate ruling on Thursday, ordering the Travis County Clerk to honor Goodfriend and Bryant’s request for a marriage license.

Judge Wahlberg agreed with Judge Herman’s ruling from earlier in the week, and his ruling found that denying a license to Goodfriend and Bryant solely on the fact that they are a same-sex couple would be a violation of their constitutional rights.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement on Thursday disagreeing with the Travis County judges’ actions. “Article 1, Section 32 of the Texas Constitution defines marriage as consisting ‘only of the union of one man and one woman’ and was approved by more than three-quarters of Texas voters,” the Governor stated. “I am committed to ensuring that the Texas Constitution is upheld and that the rule of law is maintained in the State of Texas.”

Judge Wahlberg was also influenced by arguments presented concerning Goodfriend’s poor health. She is reportedly fighting cancer; media reports did not clarify what type, but she can be seen in photos with very short hair, possibly indicating side effects from recent chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Wahlberg wrote that Goodfriend’s serious health condition “militates in favor of issuing immediate relief,” and he issued a temporary restraining order directing the Travis County Clerk to issue the women a marriage license.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir had previously told the couple that she could not issue a marriage license without a court order, because of uncertainly about the law as it continues to be litigated. Once Goodfriend and Bryant returned with Judge Wahlberg’s order, DeBeauvoir granted the license and posed for a picture, smiling next to the two women and Goodfriend’s two daughters (pictured above).

“It’s the first same-sex couple married in the history of Texas,” said the women’s attorney, Chuck Herring of the Austin law firm Herring & Irwin. “They have been waiting 30 years to get married…It’s a big deal—a big deal for the family. Great day.”

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick took a different view from Herring. “Whether it is the President of the United States who may disagree on illegal immigration or a District Judge in Travis County that may support gay marriage – the rule of law must be upheld,” Patrick stated. “The people of Texas have spoken on this issue approving Section 32, Article 1 of the Texas Constitution overwhelmingly by more than a 75% voter mandate in 2005. That amendment defines marriage as consisting ‘only of the union of one man and one woman.'”

In addition to the Motion filed with the Texas Supreme Court, Paxton also issued a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “The Texas Constitution clearly defines marriage as between one man and one woman, as Texas voters approved by an overwhelming majority,” said Paxton. “The law of Texas has not changed, and will not change due to the whims of any individual judge or county clerk operating on their own capacity anywhere in Texas. Activist judges don’t change Texas law and we will continue to aggressively defend the laws of our state and will ensure that any licenses issued contrary to law are invalid.”

Breitbart Texas legal analyst Lana Shadwick supported Paxton’s actions stating, “I am confident that the Republican Texas Supreme Court, unlike the activist Travis County judges, will follow the law in Texas and will set aside the unconstitutional rulings of these activist judges. The actions of these judges are no different from the lawless activism of the President on amnesty which was very recently overturned by a federal judge in Brownsville. And like the injunction issued against the departments, agencies, officers, employees and officials of the United States to stop Obama’s executive amnesty program, the Supreme Court of Texas will enjoin the Travis County Clerk from issuing any more marriage licenses contrary to Texas state law.” Shadwick is a former family court associate judge and family law attorney.

This article has been updated with new content.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.