Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for gay marriage in Alabama, there is little reason not to allow same-sex marriages to begin in Texas, attorneys for two gay couples told a federal appeals court Thursday.
In February, U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia ruled that Texas' ban was unconstitutional because it “violates plaintiffs’ equal protection and due process rights.” Anticipating an appeal, Garcia stayed his ruling, leaving the ban in place while the state asks higher courts to reverse Garcia's ruling.
In a motion filed with the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, attorneys for the two gay couples suing the state asked the appeals court to lift the stay and let gay marriage proceed.
The Texas plaintiffs are pointing to the downfall of Alabama’s gay marriage ban in seeking relief. After a district court struck down Alabama's law, the Supreme Court decided not to stay the ruling while it was appealed, allowing same-sex marriages to begin in that state even though the case is pending.
Many legal observers read that as an indication that the nation's highest court will soon make gay marriage legal nationwide. The plaintiffs in the Texas case are asking the 5th Circuit judges to lift Garcia's stay because it is “no longer necessary.”
“We remain confident — as we always have been — that the Fifth Circuit will vindicate our clients’ constitutional rights,” plaintiffs’ attorney Neel Lane said in a statement. “But same-sex marriages are proceeding across the South and Southwest, while Texas remains the most populous state where gays and lesbians are deprived of that right. Today we urge the Fifth Circuit to remedy that omission immediately.”
The Texas attorney general's office, which is representing the state in court, intends to file a response in the coming days, according to spokeswoman Cynthia Meyer.
“General [Ken] Paxton will continue to defend the Texas Constitution and the will of our citizens, who voted overwhelmingly to protect the sacred institution of marriage as between one man and one woman,” Meyer said.
After a January hearing, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit is currently weighing the constitutionality of Texas’ gay marriage ban. The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear four gay marriage cases.