Federal judge strikes down Texas marriage ban, stays ruling pending appeal

Today, February 26, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that laws in Texas prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying are unconstitutional. The federal judge has also issued a stay on the ruling pending appeal, so same-sex couples will not be immediately allowed to receive marriage licenses. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said shortly after the ruling came down that the state of Texas would be appealing the decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The case that the judge ruled in today is De Leon v. Perry, a case filed by private lawyers in November 2004. The case represents two couples, Marc Pharriss & Vic Holmes and Cleopatra De Leon & Nicole Dimetman. Pharriss and Holmes are unmarried, while De Leon and Dimetman married in Massachusetts in 2009 and are seeking respect for their marriage in Texas.

Two of the plaintiffs - Cleopatra DeLeon (married to Nicole Dimetman) and Vic Holmes (partnered with Mark Phariss) served in the U.S. Military, with DeLeon serving in the Air Force and the Texas National Guard and Holmes stationed at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, followed by assignments in Wichita Falls. Both couples shared their stories in a wonderful piece in the San Antonio Current earlier this year.

It's already been a huge year for the freedom to marry in states across the country - Judge Garcia is the sixth federal judge in the past two months to rule in favor of the freedom to marry, after positive rulings from Judge Shelby in Utah, Judge Timothy Black in Ohio, Judge Kern in Oklahoma, Judge Heyburn in Kentucky, and Judge Wright Allen in Virginia.

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson issued a statement applauding the ruling. He said:

Today the 6th federal judge in a row has ruled – in Texas – that there is simply no legitimate justification for denying marriage to loving gay and lesbian couples. The court's holding is solid and serious, and follows the language and logic of the Supreme Court's marriage ruling last year and the Constitution's clear command. With 47 marriage cases in 25 states now moving forward, and the possibility that a freedom to marry case will again reach the Supreme Court as soon as 2015, we must continue the conversations and progress - Texan to Texan, American to American - that show that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.

The ruling today is an amazing step forward for same-sex couples in Texas. You can learn more about the ruling - and all of the other 46 marriage lawsuits pending in court at Freedom to Marry's Litigation resource page

Keep up on all of the marriage litigation - 46 cases in 25 states - HERE.  

Read more about the case in Texas HERE.