Texas gay marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

A pair of Texas laws banning gay marriage are unconstitutional, a federal judge declared Wednesday, following a pattern of similar rulings across the country. 

As in other states, the judge stayed the decision until it is appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that a provision of the state constitution and another law banning gay marriage in the state violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. He granted a preliminary injunction to halt the ban in the state. 

The judge ruled the state could not show a legitimate basis to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses. 

“Today's Court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the United States Constitution and Supreme Court precedent,” he wrote in his 48-page opinion. “Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution.”

The Texas state legislature passed a law in 1997 banning gay marriage; the law was subsequently amended to prohibit the state from recognizing gay-marriage licenses from out of state. 

In 2005, the public also approved an amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage, passing with 76 percent of the vote.

Garcia rejected arguments regarding tradition, child rearing and procreation as justifications for the ban. 

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said the public clearly spoke when approving the constitutional amendment, and it is not the role of the federal government to get involved. He said his administration would continue to fights for the right of the state to determine its own laws. 

"The 10th Amendment guarantees Texas voters the freedom to make these decisions, and this is yet another attempt to achieve via the courts what couldn't be achieved at the ballot box," he said in a statement. "We will continue to fight for the rights of Texans to self-determine the laws of our state." 

The judge also cited six other federal court rulings on same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court last year struck down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage on the federal level as between one man and one woman.

While the Supreme Court last year did not rule on whether states must recognize gay marriage, a number of federal courts have cited the case in state rulings: in Illinois, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio and Utah.

Garcia argued the Supreme Court would eventually have to make a definitive ruling on the issue. 

“Likely, the Fifth Circuit, and eventually the United States Supreme Court, will weigh in on this issue with clear instructions,” he said. 

Judges in Utah and Oklahoma have recently ruled both states’ marriage bans are unconstitutional, and those decisions have also been delayed pending appeal from the 10th Circuit. A similar ruling took place in Virginia earlier this month, pending appeal by the Fourth Circuit. 

—Updated 4:15 p.m.