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Attorney General Paxton Asks Court To Void Marriage License Of Gay Couple

Travis County Clerk
Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant (second from left and center) are the first same-sex couple to be married in Texas.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday asked the state Supreme Court to void a marriage license issued to two Austin women who became the first same-sex couple to legally wed in the state.

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, who have been together for 30 years, said their vows on Thursday after state District Judge David Wahlberg ordered the Travis County clerk to issue them a marriage license. Later that day, the Texas Supreme Court put a temporary hold on Wahlberg’s order. Paxton is now asking the Court to overturn the order and declare the couple’s marriage license void.

Despite Texas’ constitutional ban on marriages between same-sex couples, Wahlberg ordered the license be issued to Goodfriend and Bryant under special circumstances because Goodfriend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year.

Although Wahlberg’s court order was specific to the Austin couple, Paxton asked the court on Friday to to overturn the order to “avoid the legal chaos” that could arise if county clerks “mistakenly rely” on the order and begin granting marriage licenses to other same-sex couples.

“If that occurred, the harm to the couples, state officials, and the general public would be difficult if not impossible to undo,” Paxton wrote in a petition filed with the Supreme Court.

Citing the fact that Texas’ ban remains in place, he also asked the Supreme Court to void the couple’s marriage license because it was the result of an “improper order.”

The constitutionality of the state’s gay marriage ban is currently being considered at the federal level. After a January hearing, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule on Texas’ gay marriage ban. The U.S. Supreme Court has also agreed to hear four gay marriage cases from other states.

Chuck Herring, the couple's attorney, said Friday Paxton’s actions were “procedurally improper” and may lack substance to hold up before the Supreme Court.

“He’s out of touch with history, he’s out of touch with constitutional law as declared by the United States Supreme Court, and it remains cold-hearted, mean-spirited, and just a terrible thing for him to try to do to a woman who has ovarian cancer,” Herring said.

Ryan McCrimmon contributed to this report. This Texas Tribune provided this story.