Gay couple Mark Pharris and Vic Holmes of Plano, and lesbian couple Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman of Austin (both shown), are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed last month seeking to overturn Texas’ marriage bans.
On Friday, the two couples filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. Listed as defendants are Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Bexar County Clerk Gerard Rickhoff and David Lake, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The motion asks the court to enter an injunction immediately barring the state from enforcing Texas’ marriage bans on the grounds that they violate the couples’ rights to equal protection and due process under the U.S. Constitution.
“Unless this Court takes immediate action, Plaintiffs and others like them will continue to suffer irreparable harm — not in some theoretical sense, but in real human terms,” the motion states. “This morning, Plaintiffs woke up in a world unimaginable to the majority of citizens, a world in which Plaintiffs are denied equal rights, and thus deemed inferior, because of their sexual orientation — a characteristic as immutable as their sex, their skin color, or their nationality. Today, children of same-sex parents attended school and suffered the stigma that their parents are not permitted to wed, that they are the product of relationships between citizens the state deems unworthy and inferior, and they will wear that badge of inferiority to bed tonight. Today, or perhaps tomorrow, someone in a long-term committed same-sex relationship will die without ever having been married to the person he or she loves, or without having their marriage recognized by the State of Texas.”
Ken Upton, a Dallas-based senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal, told Lone Star Q the plaintiffs are asking the state “to freeze any action on the marriage ban by the state until the case is heard at trial.” Lambda Legal is not representing the couples.
“The effect would be that the state could not refuse to recognize existing marriages and the state could not stop gay people from getting married,” Upton said.
Upton said it’s “hard to say” how likely the motion is to succeed.
“It depends on the harm that they can show from waiting anymore,” Upton said. “So, for example, if a couple were unable to get married because one is terminally ill, that might be enough for the court to grant relief. Generally speaking, however, preliminary injunctions are only to maintain the status quo. So its a heavy burden on the plaintiffs.
“The problem the court may have, is what if the plaintiffs lose on the merits at trial? What happens to any marriage licenses that were issued in the interim” Upton said. “The short of it is that the court has to weigh the harm to the plaintiffs against the harm to the state and project who is likely to win.”
The Texas lawsuit is one of dozens across the country seeking to overturn state-level marriage bans since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling striking down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Read the full motion below.