A federal judge in San Antonio declared Texas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional on Wednesday, but issued a stay which means the ban remains in effect for now.
The ruling makes Texas one of a growing number of states to have the legality of its ban on gay marriages challenged by the courts. One of the state cases, legal experts believe, is likely wind up before the Supreme Court.
State Attorney General Greg Abbott, who's running for governor, announced Wednesday he will appeal the ruling. Hours after the judge's decision, he held a campaign rally just a block from where the two couples who sued the state spoke to the press.
Abbott said there are well-meaning people on both sides, but he believes the ruling will not be upheld in higher courts.
The two couples who brought on the Texas case include two men from Plano and two women from Austin.
"Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution," Judge Orlando Garcia wrote. "These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex."
The ruling is notable because its the first time a judge or court that's part of the usually conservative 5th Circuit has reached such a decision on gay marriage.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is on record supporting the gay marriage ban and said in a statement he said the state would appeal the ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that States have the authority to define and regulate marriage," Abbott said in a written statement. "The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman. If the Fifth Circuit honors those precedents, then today's decision should be overturned and the Texas Constitution will be upheld."
Texas' gay marriage ban passed as a constitutional amendment in a 2005 vote with more than 2/3 of voters in favor of the ban. Texas Republicans issued statements on Wednesday condemning the judge's decision to rule the ban unconstitutional.
Plano couple Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes said they were thrilled with the ruling.
"We are extremely happy -- happy beyond words -- with Judge Garcia's decision," the couple said in a written statement. "Having been together almost 17 years, we look forward to the day when we can get married and when all gay Texans enjoy equal rights to marry as well."
The two filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that stated Texas' gay marriage ban unconstitutionally denied them the fundamental right to marry due to their sexual orientation.
"Today's ruling by Judge Garcia is a huge victory that moves Texas one step closer to the freedom to marry," said Chuck Smith, executive director of gay rights group Equality Texas.
Other states where gay rights supporters have been winning court cases recently include Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia.
KDFW FOX 4
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