A federal judge declared Texas’ ban on gay marriage unconstitutional Wednesday, but left it in place until an appeals court can rule on the case. Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a longstanding law.
Garcia ruled the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses by denying recognition of one couple’s Massachusetts marriage and denying another couple the right to marry. The decision came exactly two weeks after a Feb. 12 hearing, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott will likely make an immediate appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in New Orleans.
“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” Garcia wrote. “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.”
Texas voters approved the traditional marriage amendment in 2005 by a whopping 3-1 margin, the same support shared by an Oklahoma law struck down in January. Garcia said the U.S. Supreme Court “prohibits states from passing legislation born out of animosity against homosexuals.” The measure causes homosexual couples “irreparable harm,” he said, concluding “that no amount of money can compensate the harm for the denial of their constitutional rights.”
The ruling is the latest in a domino effect that began in Utah in December. Courts ruled a Utah gay marriage ban was unconstitutional, and judges in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Virginia followed suit. A court in Michigan is considering that state’s ban. Recent lower court decisions have left the bans in place pending appeals after the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halted the flood of same-sex marriages in Utah. With well over half a dozen cases either in the initial or appellate stages, the U.S. Supreme Court likely will soon be forced to make a definitive decision on the issue.