Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday asked the Texas Supreme Court to issue an emergency order blocking a local probate judge's ruling that the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.
Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman ruled Tuesday that banning gay marriage is illegal in a case filed by an Austin woman asking the county to recognize her eight-year relationship with another woman as a common-law marriage. The ruling prompted uncertainty among officials who were unsure what effect it has on gay marriage in the county.
Paxton is petitioning the state’s highest court to immediately halt the ruling's effect because it is “unnecessary and overly broad” and could give rise to “legal chaos” if county clerks interpret it to mean they can begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to the attorney general’s petition.
“The probate judge’s misguided ruling does not change Texas law or allow the issuance of a marriage license to anyone other than one man and one woman,” Paxton said in a statement.
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On Tuesday, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir commended Herman’s ruling as a “great step toward marriage equality.” But her office is holding off on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for now.
“The Travis County Attorney’s office is examining the order as well as the status of the current federal litigation related to marriage equality at the Fifth Circuit and in the Supreme Court,” DeBeauvoir said in a statement on Tuesday. “Because of all of these factors, the County Clerk is not issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples at the present time.”
The Travis County clerk's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
After a January hearing, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit is currently weighing the constitutionality of Texas’ gay marriage ban. The U.S. Supreme Court has also agreed to hear four gay marriage cases.