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Texas Supreme Court Stops Gay Marriage After First Wedding

The Texas Supreme Court has stayed lower court rulings striking down the gay marriage ban after a lesbian couple became the first to wed in the Lone Star state.
Image: Travis County Clerk issues marriage license to same sex couple
Travis County Clerk issues Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, a same sex couple residing in Austin, Tx. a marriage license on Feb. 19.Travis County Clerk

The Texas Supreme Court late Thursday imposed a stay on county court rulings striking down the state’s gay marriage ban hours after a lesbian couple became the first to wed in the Lone Star state.

A short statement on the state supreme court website said the justices had issued a special order.

“The Texas Supreme Court has granted a stay of two trial court rulings that Texas' constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages violates constitutional protections to equal protection and due process of law,” the statement said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had sought the stay in two cases in Travis County in which judges ruled in favor of the rights of same-sex couples: one, to marry; the other, to be the beneficiary of a will.

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant became the first same-sex couple to wed in Texas on Thursday when they exchanged vows in Austin. The county clerk said the right to marry applied only to the couple, and was ordered by a state judge, because one of the women has "severe and immediate health concerns."

But Paxton declared the couple’s marriage “void” after the state Supreme Court order.

“The Court’s action upholds our state constitution and stays these rulings by activist judges in Travis County,” Paxton said in a statement. “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.”

A lawyer for Goodfriend and Bryant told the Austin-American Statesman that the stay didn't affect the couple's marriage.

“In our view, there’s no practical meaning,” he said. “We got our people married.”

A challenge to the state’s same-sex marriage ban is currently before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Thirty-seven states, plus the District of Columbia, allow gays and lesbians to wed.

The Supreme Court this summer is expected to definitively answer whether gay couples nationwide have the right to marry.