Feb. 26, 2014 – A federal judge today ruled Texas’ ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional, but issued an immediate stay pending further appeal. Aaron Bruhl, University of Houston Law Center Associate Professor of Law and George Butler Research Professor, has been closely following the issue of gay rights as it has made its way through the nation’s courts and legislatures. He assessed what this latest ruling in Texas means.
Q. What did the judge rule, and what is the significance?
Today a federal district judge in San Antonio decided, in a preliminary but significant ruling, that the Texas state laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples are invalid. Same-sex couples, the judge ruled, have a fundamental right to get married. This right comes from the United States Constitution, and state law cannot stand in the way. This ruling extends last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that required the federal government to honor same-sex marriages from states that already recognized same-sex marriage.
Q. Does this open the door for same-sex marriage to take place in Texas at some time in near future?
This ruling does not go into effect immediately. The judge put his ruling on hold to allow the state to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. So same-sex marriage is not a reality in Texas today, but the ruling is part of a legal process that will yield a definitive resolution fairly soon.
Q. How does this fit into what is happening with these cases on a national level?
Since last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that addressed some aspects of same-sex marriage, lawsuits have been unfolding across the country challenging various states’ marriage laws. Most of those decisions have come out in favor of same-sex marriage. So this case fits the pattern that is emerging.
Q. How will it all likely be resolved?
It is impossible to know for sure how this will end, and when, but it is likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the issue in the next year or two. All of the decisions so far are important, but they are not the final word on the subject.