Last month, plaintiffs in Texas’ same-sex marriage case filed a motion with federal judge Orlando Garcia, asking him to lift the stay on his February decision that ruled Texas’ ban on same-ses marriage unconstitutional. For a few moments, it seemed that marriage equality would finally be coming to Texas.
Unfortunately, on Friday, Judge Garcia ruled not to allow same-sex couples to begin to get married in Texas. Garcia cited the fact that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will be hearing the case next month, meaning same-sex marriages performed now “would only be temporary, with confusion and doubt to follow.”
Oral arguments in Texas and Louisiana’s gay marriage cases will begin in early January, close to a year after Judge Garcia’s original ruling against Texas’ same-sex marriage ban. Currently, 35 states have legalized gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court increased that number when they declined to hear any state’s same-sex marriage cases this term, effectively legalizing gay marriage in those states. As the Houston Chronicle noted, “the only scenario likely to force the high court to revisit it would be if a federal appeals court broke with precedent and upheld a state’s gay marriage ban.” Since the 5th Circuit Court is one of the most conservative in the nation, many believe that it is the court most likely to split with the Supreme Court on the issue.
But the 5th Circuit’s ruling on the same-sex marriage cases will likely not come until after the Supreme Court’s current term ends in June. That means that a Supreme Court review of Texas’ case may not happen until late 2015, with a decision being made in 2016. This timeline leaves gay couples in Texas in the lurch, forced to wait even longer to have the right to marry who they love.
The plaintiffs who filed the motion with Judge Garcia argued that same-sex couples faced “needlessly suffering as a result of the unconstitutional laws” because of how long they will have to wait before they can legally marry their partners. In his ruling, Judge Garcia acknowledged the difficulty, but also offered words of hope.
Garcia wrote that he believes the Supreme Court will ultimately decide the issue in favor of same-sex marriage. He added that he is convinced that, “The day for finality and legal certainty in the long and difficult journey for equality is closer than ever before.”