Texas became the biggest conservative state to have its gay marriage ban declared unconstitutional by a federal judge Wednesday, though he held his ruling in abeyance so higher-ranking jurists, possibly even the U.S. Supreme Court, can weigh in.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio ruled that the Texas ban on same-sex marriages, which voters approved in 2005, stigmatizes gay couples for no legitimate reason. It deprives them of due process and equal protection, he said.
“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” Garcia, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, said in his order.
Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state immediately would appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Other federal appellate courts also will be handling challenges to similar state laws, prompting some – but not all – legal experts to predict that Supreme Court review is highly likely.
Nationally, similar battles are underway in federal courts in 24 states, unleashed by a key high-court ruling last year. Garcia’s ruling came amid an intensifying flurry over legal and political developments related to gay rights.