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Attorneys Neel Lane and Barry A. Chasnoff with Cleopatra DeLeon, Nicole Dimetman, Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes at a press conference after Judge Garcia's ruling. (Photo courtesy Snow Montemayor)

LGBT community jubilant as judge strikes down state's same-sex marriage ban
QSanAntonio, February 27, 2014

Members of San Antonio's LGBT community were jubilant on February 26 when news that Judge Orlando L. Garcia of the United States District Court declared that Texas' ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Facebook and Twitter went into overdrive when the decision was made public around mid-day. One of the first to tweet the news was San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro who wrote, "This is another significant victory for the principle that all people are created equal. It's the right decision."

A group of about 30 LGBT activists gathered in front of the Bexar County Courthouse on Wednesday evening to celebrate just hours after the judge's decision was announced.

Along with his ruling, Judge Garcia also issued a stay, meaning the ban remain in effect while the state appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans.

Mark Phariss and his partner Vic Holmes of Plano, along with Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman from Austin, filed their original federal lawsuit on October 28 in San Antonio challenging the state's marriage ban. On November 22, the two couples sought a preliminary injunction to bar Texas from enforcing the ban.

Despite the stay, the two couples were pleased with the judge's ruling.

"We are extremely happy -- happy beyond words -- with Judge Garcia's decision," said Phariss and Holmes, in a statement. "Having been together almost 17 years, we look forward to the day when we can get married and when all gay Texans enjoy equal rights to marry as well. Today, Judge Garcia affirmed that the Equal Protection Clause applies to all Texans. We are delighted by that decision, and we expect that, if appealed, it will be upheld."

Dimetman and DeLeon echoed those sentiments: "Today, we've taken a great step towards justice for our family. We are thrilled with the ruling and remain hopeful that this matter will continue to move quickly through the courts. Ultimately, the repeal of Texas' ban will mean that our son will never know how this denial of equal protections demeaned our family and belittled his parents' relationship. We look forward to the day when, surrounded by friends and family, we can renew our vows in our home state of Texas."

The ruling by Judge Garcia, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, is the latest in a series of decisions lifting restrictions on same-sex marriage in several states. (Read Judge Orlando Garcia's ruling here.)

“Regulation of marriage has traditionally been the province of the states and remains so today,” Garcia wrote. “However, any state law involving marriage or any other protected interest must comply with the United States Constitution.”

Garcia said the state ban was flawed legislation. "Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from passing legislation born out of animosity against homosexuals, has extended constitutional protection to the moral and sexual choices of homosexuals, and prohibits the federal government from treating state-sanctioned opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages differently," he wrote.

Attorneys Barry A. Chasnoff and Neel Lane speak with reporters after the preliminary injuction hearing on February 12. (Photo courtesy Randy Bear)

“Today’s ruling by Judge Garcia is a huge victory that moves Texas one step closer to the freedom to marry,” Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas said in a statement. “We are gratified to see Judge Garcia uphold the Constitution of the United States and declare that Texas’ restrictions on the freedom to marry are unconstitutional and unenforceable. We anxiously await the day when the United States Supreme Court will reach the same conclusion.”

Texas political leaders were quick to respond. Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said it was "a historic day for the LGBT community and the state of Texas." State Rep. Mike Villarreal said, "Today’s ruling represents another step forward in our march towards equal rights for all Texans."

State Sen. Wendy Davis, Democratic primary candidate for governor, said "I believe that all Texans who love one another and are committed to spending their lives together should be allowed to marry."

“Federal judges have decided unanimously one case after another that restrictions on same sex marriage violated the equal protection clause. And I think this is part of a larger picture that finds restrictions based on sexual orientation unconstitutional in a lot of different contexts. I think it means that citizens of this state and this country will have the same right, whatever their sexual orientation and that’s an important piece in our civil rights legacy,” said Neel Lane, one of the attorneys from the firm of Akin Gump that is representing the two couples.

As expected, the state's Republican leaders were unhappy with the ruling.

Gov. Rick Perry issued the following statement: "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," adding that "the 10th Amendment guarantees Texas voters the freedom to make these decisions."

Sounding somewhat less confrontational, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor in the Republican primary, said "This is an issue on which there are good, well-meaning people on both sides. And, as the lower court acknowledged today, it's an issue that will ultimately be resolved by a higher court.”

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State appeals judge's ruling on gay marriage
Express-News.com, February 28, 2014
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Thursday filed notice to appeal a San Antonio judge's ruling that struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, shifting the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Gay-marriage plaintiff considers Greg Abbott a “very good friend”
MySA.com, February 27, 2014
Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement:”Cecilia and I were, indeed, friends with Mark Phariss. We remember Mark from our law school days and his early days as a lawyer in San Antonio. . ."

Federal judge strikes down Texas' ban on same-sex marriage
New York Times, February 27, 2014
Although significant, the ruling will have no immediate effect, since the judge issued a stay on his decision.

Texas' ban on gay marriage ruled unconstitutional
MySA.com, February 27, 2014
A federal judge in San Antonio on Wednesday declared Texas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. The Lone Star state's refusal to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages is also unconstitutional, he ruled.

Activists gather to celebrate in downtown S.A.
Express-News.com, February 27, 2014
San Antonio activists for marriage equality stood together downtown Wednesday night to celebrate and show their support for the court decision that found Texas' ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional earlier in the day.

No decision in Texas same-sex marriage case
QSanAntonio, February 12, 2014
Saying that he had listened to both sides of the argument, San Antonio Federal District Judge Orlando Garcia told a crowded courtroom today that he will soon make a decision in the case of two couples who are seeking a preliminary injunction to bar Texas from enforcing its same sex marriage ban.

Texas couples file injunction against state's same-sex marriage ban
QSanAntonio.com, November 23, 2013
Two Texas couples, one gay the other lesbian, who last month filed a suit challenging the state's ban on same sex marriage, filed an injunction yesterday asking the Federal Court for the Western District of Texas to stop the state from enforcing it's same-sex marriage ban while their case moves forward.

Couples await San Antonio judge’s decision in same-sex marriage lawsuit
San Antonio Current, February 12, 2014
The start of a battle to win marriage equality in Texas began this morning in San Antonio federal court waged by two gay couples with strong ties to San Antonio.

Seeking freedom for everyone
By Julian Castro and Evan Wolfson, MySA.com, February 11, 2014
Two Texas couples rightly argue that all Texans should have the freedom to marry the person they love.

In court, Texas says it bans gay marriage to "promote responsible procreation"
Dallas Observer, February 13, 2013
And why does Texas have such a compelling interest in defining marriage as between a man and a woman? Because children. "The purpose of Texas marriage law is not to discriminate against same-sex couples but to promote responsible procreation," said Assistant Texas Solicitor General Mike Murphy.

Federal judge issues no decision in hearing on Texas marriage ban
By Sam Sanchez, Dallas Voice, February 13, 2014
Saying he had listened to both sides of the argument, San Antonio Federal District Judge Orlando Garcia told a crowded courtroom on Wednesday he will soon make a decision in the case of two couples who are seeking a preliminary injunction to bar Texas from enforcing its same-sex marriage ban.

Former S.A. activist is plaintiff in suit against state's equal marriage ban
QSanAntonio, October 31, 2013
San Antonio LGBT leaders were pleasantly encouraged when they heard that two Texas couples, one gay the other lesbian, filed a suit challenging the state's ban on same sex marriage. However, many were not surprised that Mark Phariss was one of the plaintiffs.

Lesbian couple seeks equal treatment with suit against Texas marriage ban
QSanAntonio, November 1, 2013
If you ask Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman why they decided to file a federal suit challenging Texas' equal marriage ban, the answer for them is simple: "It's important for our family to be treated equally under the law."