SAN ANTONIO, Texas — A federal judge nominated by then-President Bill Clinton has struck down a constitutional amendment in Texas that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia issued his decision, stating that the current law “demeans the dignity” of homosexuals “for no legitimate reason.” He placed a stay on his ruling pending appeal.
“These Texas laws deny Plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges and responsibilities,” he wrote, “for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.”
“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” Garcia asserted.
As previously reported, Mark Pharris, Vic Holmes, Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman filed the suit last November, challenging the amendment on behalf of all homosexuals in the state. De Leon and Dimetman were “wed” in Massachusetts in 2009, but their relationship was not recognized upon return to Texas. Pharris said that he and Holmes have likewise considered traveling to another state where same-sex ceremonies are allowed, but note that their relationship means nothing in Texas.
“In Texas, Plaintiffs cannot legally marry their partner before family, friends, and society–a right enjoyed by citizens who wish to marry a person of the opposite sex,” the suit stated. “And should they become married in a state that has established marriage equality, Texas explicitly voids their marriage.”
The state’s current marriage amendment was passed in 2005 with 75 percent of Texans approving of the measure. Nearly 30 other states have similar constitutional amendments on the books.
In light of the 2005 vote, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott vowed to appeal the matter, stating that the courts should not be able to override the will of the people.
“Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens,” Perry said. “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.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that states have the authority to define and regulate marriage,” Abbott added. “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.”
Garcia’s ruling follows a string of decisions that have referred to the U.S. Supreme Court opinion that struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last June. Justices in Utah, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and other states have all used the ruling in U.S. vs. Windsor as their basis to strike down state constitutional marriage amendments as being unlawful.
Photo: Kumar Appiah