In a decision that will likely set off a chain of appeals that will reach the chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge declared Texas’ same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional Wednesday afternoon.
However, Judge Orlando Garcia stayed enforcement of his decision pending an appeal from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, which means that same sex couples cannot get married in Texas until at least after the appeal.
“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” Garcia wrote in his decision. “These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.”
Garcia’ ruling comes days after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declared that state attorneys general did not have to enforce their state’s laws regarding same-sex marriage if they believe such laws violated Constitutional rights.
“I see this ruling as another attack by an unelected federal judge on our traditional values,” State Representative Dan Flynn said. “This is simply another example of judicial activism that our generation is having to face. The Texas legislature and the citizens of Texas sent a very clear statement that we believe in the traditional definition of marriage as one man and one woman. I don’t believe it will stand in Texas.”
Abbott has stated that he will submit an expedited appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that states have the authority to define and regulate marriage,” Abbott said. “The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman.”
Garcia was appointed by President Bill Clinton and serves as the Justice of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, based in San Antonio.
In 2005, 76.25 percent of Texans who voted passed Proposition 2, which added a new provision to the Texas Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. At the time, Texas was the 19th state to codify a same-sex marriage ban.
Currently, there are federal lawsuits in approximately 20 states challenging same-sex marriage laws. Federal judges have ruled that same-sex marriage bans in Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Utah violate the Constitution. In the summer of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned section three of the Defense of Marriage Act, which was one of the primary defenses for same-sex marriage bans.