Same-Sex Couple Marries in Texas Under One-Time Order

Texas AG asks Texas Supreme Court to halt Austin same-sex marriage

The Texas Supreme Court has issued an emergency order blocking gay couples from obtaining marriage licenses after a lesbian couple wed in Austin.

Thursday's ruling doesn't invalidate the marriage of the two women who were allowed to marry hours earlier based on a one-time court order issued for health reasons. One of the women has cancer.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he is seeking to void the marriage license through other means, though he didn't provide details. In a statement Thursday afternoon, Paxton said:

“The [Supreme] Court’s action upholds our state constitution and stays these rulings by activist judges in Travis County. 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.”

Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2005. The law has been overturned by a federal judge, but the judge put the ruling on hold while the case makes its way through the courts. An appeal is currently pending before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court's emergency block did not surprise Victor Holmes. of Plano, He and his partner, Mark Phariss, are part of a lawsuit challenging the same-sex marriage ban in Texas and thinks Thursday's events show more people see the ban as unconstitutional.

“What today really means is there are a lot of folks out there who feel the same way that we do,” said Holmes.

But Dr. Robert Jeffress, the pastor at First Baptist Church, said this will be chaos until the U.S. Supreme Court makes its ruling on same-sex marriage.

“We have a responsibility in Texas to follow the will of the people that's expressed in the Texas constitution, and that is marriage is reserved for one man and one woman,” said Jeffress.

First Gay Couple Marries in Austin Court

Despite Texas' longstanding ban on gay marriage, a same-sex couple married in Austin on Thursday immediately after being granted a marriage license under a one-time court order issued for medical reasons.

The license was issued exclusively for Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, who requested the license in Travis County two days after a local judge ruled in an unrelated estate case that Texas' gay-marriage ban was unconstitutional. The couple cited that case, saying it should allow them to wed.

State District Judge David Wahlberg sided with the couple and directed County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir to immediately stop relying on "the unconstitutional Texas prohibitions against same-sex marriage as a basis for not issuing a marriage." Debeauvoir said Thursday that she issued the license, but that any others must be court ordered. She said one of the women, who live in Austin and have been together for 30 years, "has severe and immediate health concerns."

Goodfriend, who is policy director for state Rep. Celia Israel, has ovarian cancer.

"We are all waiting for a final decision on marriage equality," Debeauvoir said. "However, this couple may not get the chance to hear the outcome of this issue because one person's health."

The couple who were joined by their two daughters, Dawn and Ting, when they married in a ceremony presided over by a rabbi Thursday morning. Bryant later released a statement saying they wanted to open the door for all families to have the right to marry in Texas.

"I want to finally be able to marry the love of my life," Goodfriend said in a statement. "In May, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was rushed into emergency surgery. Having faced a life threatening disease, I realized time is precious and that I wanted to spend it on the things that mattered most — my family."

"We were both born in Texas, came back to Texas after we met to build a family and establish our lives here. We plan to die here, and we have waited to get married because, as proud Texans, we want a Texas marriage license," Bryant said.

Bryant, an Austin lawyer, and Goodfriend said they believed they were the state's "first LGBT to marry."

Texas' decade-old, voter-approved ban on gay marriage was declared unconstitutional in federal court last year, but the judge stayed the ruling to allow the state to appeal.

Courts made a similar exception in April for a lesbian couple in Indiana because one of the women was dying of cancer and wanted her partner's name on her death certificate. A federal appeals court overturned the state's ban in September.

NBC 5's Julie Fine contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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