They’ve been together for thirty years, and one partner was just diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer. These are circumstances that District Judge David Wahlberg of Travis County took into consideration when he ordered a Travis County Clerk to issue a marriage license to Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant. But not all Texas family law attorneys see the decision as a compassionate one—some lawyers like Attorney General Ken Paxton is calling it unconstitutional and unjust, based on “the whims” of a judge.
Family law attorneys in Texas like Micah McBride are going to be on the front line of the controversy, and right now, that front line has been shut down. Shortly after the marriage license was issued, AG Ken Paxton asked for the ruling to be blocked, and “the Supreme Court’s action voided the couple’s marriage license, ‘just as any license issued in violation of the law would be.’” But Judge Wahlberg had apparently had enough of the unconstitutionality of Texas law when he ordered the County Clerk “to issue the license and ‘cease and desist relying on the unconstitutional Texas prohibitions against same sex marriage.’”
It’s kind of a big deal for a judge to take the law into his own hands, and there’s no telling which side of this ruling will stick, especially since although Goodfriend and Bryant are now married—or are they?—no more licenses are to be issued to same-sex couples in the state since Paxton’s lawsuit filing. Paxton sees the issue as a threat to Texas law, and vows to “continue to aggressively defend the laws of our state and will ensure that any licenses issued contrary to the law are invalid.”
Which is just plain “cold-hearted, mean-spirited and unseemly to try to do that to an ovarian cancer victim and her family,” one of the couples own family law attorneys reported to the press.
Whether same-sex marriage is contrary to the will of the people or whether banning it is illegal is a matter that’s till hotly debated amongst the legal leaders of the state. Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman ruled that banning gay marriage is illegal last month. Paxton keeps pointing to a 2005 vote in which 76 percent of Texas voters wanted to keep marriage between a man and a woman.
But these guys may all be small fish in a big pond, with the U.S. Supreme Court expected to issue a ruling on the constitutionality of Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage after a January hearing. The highest court in the nation is also hearing four other gay marriage cases, the outcomes of which could have a tremendous impact on family law attorneys and their clients all over the states.
Still, advocates for equal rights and gay marriage are celebrating, despite no more marriage licenses being issued in Texas for the moment. “This is a historic day for fairness and equality in Texas,” and they’re hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will back them up.