Texas is on the hook for more than $600,000 in fees associated with its unsuccessful fight to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Affirming a lower court ruling on the fees, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals this week shot down Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s challenge to the award amount granted to two same-sex couples who had sued the state.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit ruled that the district court "acted will within its broad discretion" in awarding those legal fees.

The fees stem from a lawsuit filed years ago by Cleopatra DeLeon and her wife, Nicole Dimetman, and Mark Phariss and his husband, Victor Holmes, who challenged the constitutionality of the state’s now-defunct same-sex marriage ban.

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The couples were successful at the district court level, where a San Antonio federal judge ruled the state's ban was unconstitutional because it “violates plaintiffs’ equal protection and due process rights.”

Anticipating an appeal, that ruling was stayed and the the ban was left in place. The lawsuit eventually made its way to the 5th Circuit, where a three-judge panel in early 2015 signaled significant doubt about the constitutionality of Texas' ban.

But the state conceded the case that summer after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 ruled that same-sex marriage is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Under a Senate-backed proposal, county clerks with religious objections to same-sex marriages can recuse themselves from signing marriage licenses.
  • Same-sex couples are entitled to the same treatment as opposite-sex couples, a lawyer for the city of Houston argued before the Texas Supreme Court last month in a case challenging the city's benefits policy for married same-sex couples.
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