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Gay couples sue for right to marry in Texas

Two gay couples have filed a federal lawsuit for the right to marry in Texas.
/ Source: MSNBC TV

Two gay couples have filed a federal lawsuit for the right to marry in Texas.

Two gay couples have filed a federal lawsuit for the right to marry in Texas--one of 29 states with a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriage.

"In Texas, Plaintiffs cannot legally marry their partner before family, friends, and society—a right enjoyed by citizens who wish to marry a person of the opposite sex. And should they become married in a state that has established marriage equality, Texas explicitly voids their marriage," San Antonio attorney Barry Chasnoff argued in the lawsuit filed Monday in 

The two couples listed as plaintiffs in the case—Marc Pharriss and Vic Holmes and Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman—are suing the state for violating the the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution, which they argue trumps state law. 

"We've talked numerous times of getting married and going to one of the states that allows gay marriage," Pharriss told the San Antonio Express-News. "The problem with that is we have no legal rights when we return."

De Leon and Dimetman were married in Massachusetts in 2009, but their marriage was not recognized in Texas. But after the Supreme Court earlier this year struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the Obama administration began to recognize same-sex marriages for federal tax purposes—even if the couple lived in a state that does not legally recognize their marriage.

Whether Texas and other conservative-led states will follow the federal example is questionable: the Texas National Guard announced in September it would not provide benefits to same-sex couples, despite a direct order from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the wake of the DOMA ruling.

Twenty-nine states, including Texas, have with a constitutional amendment that limits marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Six additional states have statutory provisions defining marriage, though one of those states—Hawaii—is considering approving same-sex marriage by the end of the year. 

The lawsuit goes on to state, "There is no rational basis, much less a compelling government purpose, for Texas to deny plaintiffs the same right to marry enjoyed by the majority of society."

A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry told My San Antonio that the governor stands by "the majority of Texans" who voted back in 2005 to amend the state's constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.