Cleopatra Sues Texas for Right to Marry | Courthouse News Service
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Cleopatra Sues Texas for Right to Marry

SAN ANTONIO (CN) - A woman named Cleopatra sued Texas in Federal Court, demanding an end to end its "repugnant" ban on same-sex marriages.

Cleopatra De Leon, Nicole Dimetman, Victor Holmes and Mark Pharris sued Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Bexar County Clerk and the state health commissioner.

The couples claim the Texas Constitution's definition of marriage as "the union of one man and one woman" violates their 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection.

Voters amended the Texas Constitution in 2005 to include the ban.

"This unequal treatment of gay and lesbian citizens is based on longstanding prejudices, and it is repugnant to the United States Constitution," the 16-page complaint states. "As the United States Supreme Court recently declared, '[t]he Constitution's guarantee of equality "must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot" justify disparate treatment of that group.' The constitutional guarantee of equality also protects against such disparate treatment when the desire to harm manifests itself in state legislation or state constitutional provisions."

The Texas Family Code reflects the state constitution by expressly forbidding state officials and officials of political subdivisions of the state from recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage, including civil unions.

The plaintiffs say their inability to marry in Texas creates social stigma against them, and that the ban "humiliates tens of thousands of children" being raised by same-sex couples.

"Texas' constitutional and statutory prohibitions against recognizing same-sex marriages convey the state's view that plaintiffs' relationships are of lesser value than relationships of heterosexuals and are unworthy of legal recognition and support," the complaint states.

"The state's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages is a very public rejection of plaintiffs' most significant relationship, and it harms plaintiffs, any children plaintiffs have, and their families. The refusal to recognize same-sex marriage also invites and facilitates private discrimination against homosexuals and promotes the view that their relationships and families are inferior."

The claim Texas's refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages results in confusion over whether certain federal benefits will be extended to them. De Leon and Holmes are military veterans.

The Department of Defense began recognizing same-sex marriages in September and allowing gay members to apply for federal benefits for spouses and dependents. The change in policy came after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional in June, finding that the federal law's definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman illegal.

The resulting contradiction in federal law and Texas law resulted in the state organization behind the Texas National Guard asking Attorney General Abbott for guidance .

"What actions, if any, can the TXMF take in order to fulfill the DoD policy of extending spousal and dependent benefits to same-sex spouses without violating the Texas Constitution and Texas State Law," asked TXMF adjunct general and Texas Air National Guard Maj. Gen. John Nichols.

Abbott, a Republican, has backed the state's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages in the past. In 2009, he challenged Dallas County Judge Tena Callahan's ruling that the state's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional due to equal protection violations.

In that case, a Dallas couple was married in Massachusetts in 2006 and returned to Texas, where they later sought a divorce. Callahan, a Democrat, ruled that her court had jurisdiction to hear the divorce suit.

A Texas appeals court disagreed, and reversed .

Lucy Nashed, spokeswoman for Gov. Perry, told the San Antonio Express-News Tuesday that he supports citizens who voted against same sex-marriage.

"The governor agrees with the majority of Texans, who voted to define marriage in the Texas Constitution as between one man and one woman," Nashed wrote in an email.

The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment and an injunction.

They are represented by Barry Chasnoff with Akin Gump.

Perry lost another hot political case on Monday when a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional parts of a restrictive abortion law that was to take effect Tuesday.

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