Texas Attorney General puts halt to judge's same sex marriage ruling
AUSTIN, Texas - It's a legal halt in the fight for marriage equality.
The Texas Attorney General is seeking to overturn a Travis County judge's ruling that finds the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
It's a surprising turn of events in the battle over same-sex marriage in Texas.
On Tuesday, Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman found Texas' marriage law unconstitutional.
Now Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has intervened, seeking a stay by the Texas Supreme Court and asking the court to overturn the judge's ruling.
Not everyone is pleased.
"The paperwork that has been filed, is filed on the basis that there's concern that the judge's ruling could be interpreted to mean that marriage for same sex couples is now legal in Travis County. If that's how they're interpreting it, I would agree with their interpretation. That is in fact what the ruling means and we believe that should be allowed to move forward," says Chuck Smith, executive director, Equality Texas.
Finding the law unconstitutional was just the first step in a case involving Austin woman Sonemaly Phrasavath, who is seeking to have her eight-year relationship with her partner Stella Powell recognized.
They were married in 2008 but the ceremony is not recognized in the state of Texas.
Powell died from colon cancer in 2014 and did not execute a will.
Now there is a battle over heirship between Phrasavath and Powell's siblings.
We spoke with Defense Attorney Brian Thompson after Tuesday's hearing.
"This has just been a trying time for her. I mean, all she wants to do is be treated the way that anyone else would be treated who lost their spouse. That is, be allowed to inherit and participate in things like the funeral," says Brian Thompson, defense attorney.
An analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census shows that 4,483 same sex couples are living in Travis County.
Equality Texas saw judge Herman's ruling as a step toward marriage equality and could benefit those residents.
Wednesday afternoon they called on the Travis County clerk to take action.
"As of yesterday, the law of Travis County changed and she doesn't need any specific instructions. The judge's ruling was quite clear. So her job is to follow the law, which in Travis County now would say that restricting marriage, prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples is now against the law in Travis County," says Smith.
Dana DeBeauvoir says not so fast.
"I think all we can do at this point is ask for advice from the county attorney, which I have done. To take a look at this to see where this places us in light of all these factors. Once we've had the chance to review it, then we can make a final decision," says Dana DeBeauvoir, Travis County Clerk.
Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued this statement saying:
"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. The probate judge's misguided ruling does not change Texas law or allow the issuance of a marriage license to anyone other than one man and one woman."