A request to allow legal same-sex marriage to proceed in Texas ahead of a U.S Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on the matter has been denied.
U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia denied a motion to lift a stay on his February ruling which found Texas' same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional. Plaintiffs challenging the Texas ban filed the motion on November 24 asking Garcia to allow marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision not to review same-sex marriage cases from other states invalidated his stay.
Legal experts believed the plaintiffs made a solid argument and that it was a possibility marriage licenses would be issued to same-sex couples this month. Bexar County District Clerk Gerhard C. “Gerry” Rickhoff reacted to the possibility of legal same-sex marriage by announcing his office would be open around-the-clock to accommodate couples looking to obtain marriage licenses.
Outgoing Attorney General and Governor-elect Greg Abbott filed a response to the plaintiffs' motion that argued the U.S. District court had no jurisdiction to lift the stay now that the case was under review in the Fifth Circuit. During a Monday press conference, he went further to say that allowing gay marriages to take place while the case was under appeal was "deeply offensive."
In today's decision, Garcia ruled that he did have jurisdiction, but that he was not persuaded by plaintiffs arguments, denying their request to have the stay lifted. Earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit stayed a Mississippi decision that struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban. The stay imposed in the Mississippi case factored into Garcia's decision to lift the stay in Texas. Garcia also stated in his ruling, which you can read below, that the earlier Supreme Court decision not to review the same-sex marriage cases "did not dictate the stay should be lifted."
"Of course, my clients are disappointed for themselves and thousands of others they are fighting for. While it is clear Judge Garcia's heart was in lifting the stay, the Fifth Circuit has tied his hands for now," said San Antonio attorney Neel Lane, who represents the plaintiffs.
Legal experts suspect that if the Fifth Circuit had not imposed the stay in the Mississippi, Garcia's decision might have gone the other way. But as it stands, same-sex couples in Texas continue to patiently wait to have their unions legally recognized by the state and local government. Texas is currently one of only 15 states that currently have a same-sex marriage ban in effect.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the Texas case on January 9.
We'll be updating this post with reactions and responses to the ruling throughout the afternoon.
Update: Friday, December 12, 2014, 3:38 p.m.
Here's a response from Robert Salcido, San Antonio field organizer for Equality Texas:
While there is some disappointment, Judge Garcia's decision was not a surprise. Judge Garcia originally stated in his ruling that this was not his decision to make and that he would leave it to the higher courts. Oral arguments begin on January 9th and we look forward to a favorable ruling from the 5th circuit. Another day delayed is another day that loving same-gender couples experience harm.