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Texas same-sex marriage ban declared unconstitutional

Today a federal judge in San Antonio joined judges in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia in ruling that bans on same-sex couples marrying or recognizing out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples are unconstitutional.

District Judge Orlando Garcia issued his ruling in Austin in response to a suit by two gay couples. They challenged the state’s constitutional amendment, which had been approved by 76 percent of voters in 2005, and a 2003 law banning gay marriage.

Garcia’s decision rejected the argument by the Texas attorney general’s office that each state has the right to define marriage in the traditions of its citizens. Texas also argued that traditional marriage best supports the state’s interest in procreation and child rearing.

“After careful consideration, and applying the law as it must, this court holds that Texas’ prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process,” Garcia wrote in a 48-page opinion. “Texas’ current marriage laws deny homosexual couples the right to marry, and in doing so, demean their dignity for no legitimate reason.”

Nicole Dimetman and Cleopatra De Leon, one of the couples who filed suit, were wed in Massachusetts and want Texas to recognize their marriage. The other plaintiffs, Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, have been together 17 years and want to get married at home in Texas.

“We are extremely happy — happy beyond words — with Judge Garcia’s decision,” Phariss and Holmes said Wednesday in a joint statement with Dimetman and De Leon. “Today, Judge Garcia affirmed that the Equal Protection Clause applies to all Texans. We are delighted by that decision, and we expect that, if appealed, it will be upheld.”

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

“Today the 6th federal judge in a row has ruled – in Texas – that there is simply no legitimate justification for denying marriage to loving gay and lesbian couples. The court’s holding is solid and serious, and follows the language and logic of the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling last year and the Constitution’s clear command. With 47 marriage cases in 25 states now moving forward, and the possibility that a freedom to marry case will again reach the Supreme Court as soon as 2015, we must continue the conversations and progress — Texan to Texan, American to American — that show that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.”

The Public Research Religion Institute released data today that shows increased support for the freedom to marry in the South and in Texas. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Southern millennials support the freedom to marry, and support across the South is split, with 48% in support and 48% opposed. Support has grown the fastest in the South of any region in the country, more than doubling in the last ten years. In Texas, support is split, with 48% of Texans in support and 49% opposed.

On Monday, Freedom to Marry launched a public education campaign called Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, with the goal of building majority support for marriage in Southern states, including Texas.

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