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Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Reverberates Throughout Texas


The Supreme Court says same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states in a 5-4 ruling Friday morning.

The ruling reverberated throughout Texas. There were scores of couples applying for licenses – and some finally tying the knot. 

Kathleen Tucker and Rebecca Roberts were the first female couple to marry at the George Allen Courthouse in Dallas Friday morning.

"Are you all ready?  We're ready."

Holding one red rose, Tucker was the first to say her vows to her partner of 28 years. 

Another North Texas Couple have been fighting to get married in Texas for years. Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, who live in Plano filed suit to end the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas in 2013.

They said Friday they've already booked a florist, a videographer and a ban. They say they're excited to "do what everyone else does, and that's marry the person we love."

Not every same-sex couple will be able to get a marriage license in Texas, at least not right away. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton advised county clerks to hold off on issuing licenses – but many ignored his request.

Conservative political groups are also expressing their disappointment. Cathie Adams is president of the Texas Eagle Forum.

"I am grieved because I hold marriage to be sacred and this is a day I never thought I would live in where we would break precedent with millennia of history."

Adams says the ruling threatens religious liberty. 

“I think we are going to see business that are going to be under attack,” Adams said. “The real effort is to go against people of Judeo-Christian faith this has nothing to do with tolerance. Because we as Americans have been a very tolerant society.”

Tolerance isn’t enough for many same sex couples who want equal treatment under the law.

“This is a time of validation,” said Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. She came to see the crowds of couples who stormed the records building downtown on Friday morning. She has pointed out that if she were killed on duty, her partner wouldn’t be able to receive city or state benefits she’s accumulated from years in law enforcement. If she were straight, that wouldn’t be the case.

“We’ve known all along who we are and who we love,” Valdez said. “Now it’s validated by the U.S. government.”

About a dozen events were planned across the state Friday night to celebrate the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage.

More coverage

9:42 a.m. President Barack Obama took to Twitter to praise the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision as "a big step in our march toward equality."

Obama plans to deliver a statement Friday morning from the White House Rose Garden on the ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry in all 50 states. He then leaves for Charleston, South Carolina, where he will deliver a eulogy at the funeral for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state lawmaker and pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Church. Pinckney and eight others were killed there last week.

9:15 a.m. The Supreme Court ruling that grants same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide comes on a date with legal significance.

Two previous rulings by the high court also came on June 26. Both were also written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

In 2003, the court issued its ruling in the case Lawrence versus Texas, striking down state laws that made gay sex a crime.

And on the same date in 2013, it struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law in the case U.S. versus Windsor.

9:05 a.m. Gay and lesbian couples already can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The court's ruling on Friday means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.

The outcome is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, just as he did in the court's previous three major gay rights cases dating back to 1996.

Same-Sex Marriage in Texas

Credit Krystina Martinez / KERA News
Kathleen Tucker and Rebecca Roberts had been together for 28 years. They were married in the George L. Allen Courts Building.

KERA's Krystina Martinez reported from the George Allen Courts Building in Downtown Dallas.

The room was packed. Normally, phones are not allowed in the courtroom but Judge Tonya Parker, who officiated, waived it. People had out their cell phones. To one side, there were at least a dozen judges there to watch. There were also other lawyers and people who just wanted to witness the wedding. Outside the courtroom, there was a mom and a couple of young kids who were handing out flowers to couples who were coming in to get married. At least three couples came in to get their waiver stamped before the first wedding happened.

Here's a video of the first marriage in the George L. Allen Courts Building:

12:35 p.m. Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a directive to all state agencies demanding they preserve Texans' religious liberties after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

The Republican said his order on Friday applies to "any agency decision," including denying benefits to gay couples, enforcing agency contracts, state laws and other matters.

Abbott dismissed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling as "unelected" judges imposing their views on the country.

A short time later, he issued a memo saying that the government should not pressure people to violate their "sincerely held religious beliefs" on marriage.

County clerks in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and elsewhere had already begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples before Abbott's directive, and it appeared not to have any effect on them.

10:45 a.m. Same-sex couples in Texas are beginning to obtain marriage licenses following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage nationwide.

In Travis County, Gena Dawson and Charlotte Rutherford received the first same-sex marriage license within two hours of the ruling Friday morning. The license was issued despite the Supreme Court saying the ruling will not take effect until the losing side gets roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration.

Credit Stella Chavez / KERA News
This couple in their '80s is in the ‪‎Dallas‬ Records Building waiting to get a marriage license. They've been together 55 years.

Many other Texas counties were holding off until receiving guidance from the state, which fought to preserve a 2005 state constitutional ban on gay marriage. Houston is among the cities where county officials are awaiting guidance from the Texas attorney general.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has remained an emphatic opponent of gay marriage, even as signs in recent months pointed to the Supreme Court striking down state bans.

10:40 a.m. Gov. Greg Abbott is vowing to keep defending traditional values, saying he's preparing a directive to state agencies "instructing them to prioritize the protection of Texans' religious liberties."

In a statement Friday, the Republican decried the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriagenationwide.

Abbott said the court acted as "an unelected nine-member legislature" and that five justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage "have imposed on the entire county their personal views."

The decision overturns Texas' 2005 gay marriage ban, and major counties statewide were poised to begin issuing marriage licenses.

Attorney General Ken Paxton had asked county clerks and other officials to wait for his guidance before proceeding. But those instructions haven't been forthcoming.

Abbott, meanwhile, did not immediately provide details on what his directive will mean.

10:30 a.m. Judges in Dallas County can waive the 72-hour waiting period between when marriage licenses are issued and ceremonies can be held as gay couples lined up Friday to wed.

Judge Ken Molberg, who's the administrative district judge for the county, said prior to Friday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage that judges would be available immediately for ceremonies.

Credit Stella Chavez / KERA News
A couple waiting to get their marriage license Friday morning in the Dallas Records Building following the SCOTUS ruling.

Several couples were lined up at the Dallas County Records Building seeking marriage licenses, including Kenneth Denson and his partner, Gabriel Mendez. The couple, who've been together 15 years, wore matching gray T-shirts from their business, Red Pegasus Games & Comics, where they planned to return to work after getting married.

A sign posted at the business said the owners might be opening a little late Friday "because we're waiting at the courthouse to see if the Supreme Court is going to let us get married."

10:15 a.m. Travis County says it will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage nationwide.

Ron Morgan, the county's chief deputy district clerk, says his office will begin the process Friday morning. The licenses will be issued despite the Supreme Court saying the ruling will not take effect until the losing side gets roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration.

Many other Texas counties were holding off until receiving guidance from the state, which fought to preserve a 2005 state constitutional ban on gay marriage. Houston is among the cities where county officials are awaiting guidance from the Texas attorney general.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has remained an emphatic opponent of gay marriage, even as signs in recent months pointed to the Supreme Court striking down state bans.

10:08 a.m. Even before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick requested an opinion on gay marriage from the attorney general that would instruct county and local officials on how to proceed.

Patrick wrote Friday that a 2005 amendment to the state Constitution banned gay marriage. He said it was approved by 76 percent of voters — though turnout was very low in an off-year election.

The Republican said that because of the Supreme Court's ruling "county clerks and Justices of the Peace could be forced to subjugate their sincerely held religious beliefs," and warned that could spark political "conflict throughout our state."

Attorney General Ken Paxton late Thursday asked county clerks and justices of the peace not to issue immediate gay marriage licenses following a high court decision, but instead to wait for his instructions.

The attorney general has yet to issue such guidance, but instead in a Friday statement said the Supreme Court's ruling will be "a dilution of marriage as a societal institution."

10 a.m. Harris County's court clerk is among many in Texas awaiting guidance from the Texas attorney general on whether it can issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

State leaders have criticized the ruling Friday by the U.S. Supreme Court that legalizes gay marriage across the country. But the high court says the ruling will not take effect until the losing side gets roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration.

Still, even while no action is being taken yet in Harris County, Houston Mayor Annise Parker praised the Supreme Court's ruling. Parker, a lesbian, called it a "joyous, historic day" that she didn't expect to see in her lifetime.

9:40 a.m. Some same-sex couples in Texas kissed upon learning of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage nationwide.

In Austin, Cindy Stocking and Guadalupe Garcia embraced and began kissing in the Travis County clerk's office after Friday's ruling. Stocking had put her hand on her partner's shoulder while constantly refreshing her phone for updates.

They were first in line and were waiting for county attorneys to read the decision before getting their license to wed.

Couples in Dallas and San Antonio also cheered the decision as they waited at county offices.

Credit Stella Chavez / KERA News
Couple Kenneth Denson, 38, and Gabriel Mendez, 33, in the downtown Dallas Records Building. The couple owns and runs Red Pegasus Games and Comics in Dallas.

The high court's ruling will not take effect immediately because justices are giving the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration. But some state officials and county clerks might decide there is little risk in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

9:15 a.m. Same-sex couples in Texas may soon obtain marriage licenses following Friday's landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage nationwide.

Several gay couples were present Friday morning at county clerk offices in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas hours before the decision. But some offices were planning to remain open longer to accommodate larger numbers in the afternoon.

Other counties were holding off until receiving guidance from the state, which fought to preserve a 2005 constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Houston is among the cities where county officials are awaiting guidance from the Texas attorney general.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has remained an emphatic opponent of gay marriage, even as signs in recent months pointed to the Supreme Court striking down state bans.

This story was provided by The Associated Press and will develop throughout the day.

Reactions From Texans

Mayor Mike Rawlings

"Today’s historic Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing marriage equality is long overdue and wonderful news for Dallas, our state and our country. I am proud to lead a city that is home to numerous large businesses that have already embraced policies in support of gay and lesbian families. This court ruling will help our city and cities across America continue to grow and prosper. On a personal level, I am especially thrilled for my many close friends in the LGBT community. I expect that my family and I will celebrate with them at some very special marriage ceremonies in the coming months and years."

Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas of Cathedral of Hope (United Church of Christ) in Dallas

Today, we are delighted that marriage equality has become the law of Texas and the entire nation. The United States becomes the 21st country to declare same-gender marriage legal. The struggle for freedom and dignity has not been easy, and now our efforts will turn to winning the hearts of those who will oppose this ruling because they do not know us as brothers and sisters before a loving God who created us all.  At the Cathedral of Hope we look forward to officiating at state-recognized marriages of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers in the weeks and months ahead even as we continue to marry straight couples. The Supreme Court has spoken on marriage equality, and now we move forward to the other issues of equality as we strive to create a more just and radically inclusive world.

Chuck Smith, Equality Texas

“The 37 states that already have marriage have proven that when gay people share in the freedom to marry, families are helped and no one is hurt. Today’s victory will bring joy to tens of thousands of Texans and their families who have the same dreams for marriage as any others.  We hope state officials move swiftly to implement the Constitution’s command in the remaining 13 states with marriage discrimination.  Same-sex couples and their families have waited long enough.   While the work toward equality for all Texans is far from over, the campaign for the freedom to marry has been transformative in helping Texans understand who gay people are.”

Cece Cox, Resource Center in Dallas

“Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is a milestone victory in the quest for full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the United States. Marriage equality is the now law of the land, including here in Texas.  Freedom and equality under the law have triumphed in today’s ruling, and the real winners are the tens of thousands of Texas couples and their families who can now get married in Texas or have their out-of-state marriages recognized."

Former Gov. Rick Perry

“I am disappointed the Supreme Court today chose to change the centuries old definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. I’m a firm believer in traditional marriage, and I also believe the 10th Amendment leaves it to each state to decide this issue. I fundamentally disagree with the court rewriting the law and assaulting the 10th Amendment. Our founding fathers did not intend for the judicial branch to legislate from the bench, and as president, I would appoint strict Constitutional conservatives who will apply the law as written.”

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.