Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Same-Sex Marriage|in Turmoil in Texas

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) - Following a court order, the Travis County Clerk granted a marriage license Thursday to a same-sex couple - and said she would not issue such a license again without another court order.

Travis County Judge David Wahlberg signed the order after Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant sued Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir Thursday morning. They sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the "unconstitutional violation of plaintiffs' right to obtain a marriage license."

Texas then sued DeBeauvoir, seeking an injunction to stop her from issuing any more same-sex marriage licenses.

In the couple's lawsuit against the county clerk, Wahlberg ordered the county "to cease and desist relying on the unconstitutional Texas prohibitions against same-sex marriage as a basis for not issuing a marriage license to plaintiffs Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant."

Goodfriend and Bryant claimed in their lawsuit that their inability to obtain a marriage license was causing them "ongoing, irreparable loss of actual and potential benefits otherwise available under the law."

They said they were being deprived of intestacy rights, homestead rights, rights of spousal maintenance, community property and possible wrongful death remedies. Goodfriend has been treated for ovarian cancer and her future is uncertain because of her severe health condition.

Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman had ruled on Tuesday that Texas' ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. In that case, involving the Estate of Stella Marie Powell, plaintiff Sonemaly Phrasavath claimed she had been in a same-sex, common-law marriage with Powell and was an intestate heir.

Judge Herman ruled that the state's laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional because "such restrictions and prohibitions violate the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution." The laws in question are Texas Family Code 2.401, Texas Family Code 6.204(b), and Article I, 32 of the Texas Constitution.

County Clerk DeBeauvoir said in a statement Thursday about Goodfriend and Bryant's marriage license: "We are all waiting for a final decision on marriage equality. However, this couple may not get the chance to hear the outcome of this issue because of one person's health. Therefore, a Travis County district judge has ordered the county clerk to act now in issuing a license for this medically fragile couple. It is important to note that this order applies only to the medically fragile couple who brought the court action. Any additional licenses issued to same-sex couples also must be court-ordered."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had intervened in Phrasavath's case, sought a stay from the Texas Supreme Court, and asked it to overturn Judge Herman's order.

Paxton intervened again in Goodfriend and Bryant's case on Thursday and sought a stay hours after DeBeauvoir issued the marriage license, and an injunction preventing issuance of more such licenses.

The Texas Supreme Court has since granted the attorney general's requests to stay the two court rulings declaring same-sex marriage laws unconstitutional.

"The court's action upholds our state constitution and stays these rulings by activist judges in Travis County," Paxton said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "The same-sex marriage license issued by the Travis County Clerk is void, just as any license issued in violation of state law would be. I will continue to defend the will of the people of Texas, who have defined marriage as between one man and one woman, against any judicial activism or overreach."

Debeauvoir said the Texas Supreme Court order was not directed at the county clerk. "I have every reason to believe that the actions I took this morning were legally correct based on the trial court's order, and that the license my office issued was then and is now valid. There is no further action for me to take at this time," she said.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.