A flood of legal briefs supporting and opposing same-sex marriage in Texas have been pouring into the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Tuesday was the final day for the friends of the court briefs to be filed.
The state is asking the Fifth Circuit to overturn a lower court ruling in February that found Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
By mid-afternoon, more than 20 groups had filed amicus briefs supporting the right for same-sex couples in Texas to marry. They came from gay and lesbian organizations, the American Pediatric Association, some first responders and an Episcopal church group.
Opponents of same-sex marriage filed nearly as many briefs on behalf of the state. It’s being represented by the Office of Attorney General Greg Abbott, who’s running for governor.
Opposition came from Catholic bishops, a group of African-American pastors, conservative political groups like Eagle Forum and other states defending their own bans on same-sex marriage.
Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes of Plano are one of the two couples that challenged Texas’s ban and won at the district court level.
“I’m optimistic as I have been all along,” Phariss said. Though after waiting 17 years to marry his partner, he’s getting impatient.
“What they’re doing by continuing this appeal is wasting state taxpayer money,” Phariss said. “They’re really hurting the children of same-sex couples. It also denies same-sex couples like Vic and me our rights.”
Phariss and his attorneys say recent court rulings weigh in their favor.
Nineteen states and the District of Colombia now recognize same-sex marriages. The U.S. Supreme Court may decide later this month whether to consider cases from five states where courts have ruled state bans violate the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Phariss’ attorney, Daniel “Neel” Lane, says the issue before the Supreme Court is also at the heart of their case.
“The central question is whether states can deny the right to marry to people of the same sex and deny recognition of marriage to people of the same sex who were married in another state,” Lane said.
Lane says the Fifth Circuit could hear oral arguments and decide the Texas case as early as this fall. It could also delay their case until the Supreme Court rules.
Phariss hopes that doesn’t happen.
“We want our day in court,” Phariss said. “We want the Fifth Circuit to acknowledge what the district acknowledged, which is that gays and lesbians are guaranteed rights under U.S. Constitution and protected by the Equal Protection clause (of the 14th Amendment).”
The Texas Attorney General’s Office wouldn’t comment on its case. It has argued that the state has the right to establish its own marriage policies. In 2005, Texas voters passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.