Federal Court Hears Challenge to Texas Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Two same-sex couples in Texas have asked a federal judge to hear their case challenging the 2005 amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. The couples will appear today in a San Antonio federal district court.

Karin Hildebrand Lau /
Karin Hildebrand Lau /

Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, both military veterans, were married in Massachusetts in 2001. Now living in Austin, Texas, the couple was not allowed to jointly adopt a child because Texas law does not recognize the legality of their marriage. Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss have been a couple for 17 years. The two Plano men would like to marry in Texas but were denied a marriage license last fall.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) – currently running for governor of the state – will defend the amendment and has stated that Texas has the right to establish its own marriage policiesThe US Supreme Court ruled in US v. Windsor that the federal government could not deny same-sex couples married under state laws the benefits available to married heterosexual couples. It did not address the constitutionality of state laws prohibiting equal marriage.

“Our belief is the arc of equal protection cases points directly to recognizing that people have the right to marry regardless of gender,” said Neel Lane, attorney for the plaintiffs. “Gays and lesbians are not afforded access to marriage and all the benefits from it. That is a denial of equal protection of the law. It is unequal when some people are not permitted to do what most others are permitted to do. And there’s no basis for denying them that right.”

Just this week, US Attorney General Eric Holder released a memo to Department of Justice staff that the Department would give same-sex marriages equal protection under the law, even in states where same-sex marriage is not yet legal. Holder’s announcement follows other policy changes at the Department of Defense, Office of Personnel Management, Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security to recognize same-sex marriages on the federal level.

Media Resources: 2/12/2014; Reuters 2/11/2014; Akin Gump 2/8/2014; Feminist News 2/11/2014, 6/26/2013; Huffington Post 8/15/2013

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