County clerk issues first legal same-sex marriage license in Texas
A Texas county issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple on Thursday, the first legal certification for a gay couple in the state since its voters about a decade ago approved a measure defining marriage as only being between a man and a woman.
A Travis County clerk said the marriage license was given to just one couple, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, after a court order earlier in the day and the county, home to the state capital Austin, is not planning to issue more licenses to same-sex couples.
“The court order only applies to this one couple,” a clerk said.
Legal experts said there was at least one case of a marriage between a same-sex couple in the early 1970s and none since the voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage went into effect.
A U.S. district judge in Texas last year ruled the state’s bans on gay marriage unconstitutional because it denied the couples equal protection under the law. Enforcement of the decision is hold pending an appeal.
Travis County District Judge David Wahlberg ruled Goodfriend and Bryant must be granted a marriage license because not doing so violates “their rights under the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
Goodfriend requested an expedited issuance because she has been in poor health due to ovarian cancer. The couple have been together for about 30 years and have two daughters, aged 17 and 12, who joined them at the county clerk’s office.
A rabbi married the couple at a county office.
“We are grateful to have had this opportunity to crack the door open in Texas. We hope it will swing open for everyone very soon,” Bryant told a news conference.
A day before the decision, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he would ask the courts to prevent same-sex marriages.
“Texas law is clear on the definition of marriage and I will fight to protect this sacred institution and uphold the will of Texans, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional amendment defining the union as between one man and one woman,” Paxton said.
Goodfriend said: “We can’t control what the AG’s office wants to do. If they want to come in and try to undo this they will, but we have a valid marriage license, but I don’t think they can.”
(Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Bill Trott and Lisa Lambert)