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Federal Judge Voids Texas Gay Marriage Ban

Saying that a Texas law barring same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and demeans the dignity of homosexuals, a federal judge struck down the law Wednesday. The ruling from U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia doesn't mean gay marriages can be held in Texas, however; he placed a stay on the decision, anticipating an appeal by the state.

The issue is widely expected to be settled eventually by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Dallas Morning News reports Garcia has "acknowledged that his ruling would be far from the final say on the matter. He predicted the case, or one of 22 similar ones in other states, 'will make its way to the Supreme Court.' "

From The Washington Post:

" 'Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,' Garcia wrote in his decision. 'These Texas laws deny Plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.' "

Garcia ruled in a case that was brought by four plaintiffs including Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss, who say that the ban on gay marriage, which Texas enacted in 2005, infringes on their rights.

"We are extremely happy — happy beyond words — with Judge Garcia's decision. Having been together almost 17 years, we look forward to the day when we can get married and when all gay Texans enjoy equal rights to marry as well," Phariss and Holmes said in a press release today, according to San Antonio's KENS 5 TV.

"Today, Judge Garcia affirmed that the Equal Protection Clause applies to all Texans. We are delighted by that decision, and we expect that, if appealed, it will be upheld."

State Attorney General Greg Abbott has said he will defend the ban in court.

Update at 3:50 p.m. ET: Gov. Perry Responds

In a statement issued after today's ruling, Gov. Rick Perry had this to say:

"Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our Constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens. The 10th Amendment guarantees Texas voters the freedom to make these decisions, and this is yet another attempt to achieve via the courts what couldn't be achieved at the ballot box. We will continue to fight for the rights of Texans to self-determine the laws of our state."

Thanks to NPR's Southern Bureau Chief Russell Lewis for passing along that info.

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