Thursday, February 27, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage Ban In Texas Ruled Unconstitutional

Back in 2005, the voters in Texas approved an amendment to the state's constitution that defined marriage as only being between a man and a woman. This amendment, which passed by a huge majority, had the effect of banning marriage between same-sex couples -- and the religious right was sure this amendment would settle the question of same-sex marriage in Texas for good. They were wrong.

While the voters do have the right to alter marriage rules through a constitutional amendment, any changes they approve must apply equally to all citizens. Neither voters nor state officials have the right to deny rights to any group -- rights that are given to other groups. That's because the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (which trumps all state constitutions) says:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

And that's just what a judge said on Wednesday in San Antonio. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that the Texas constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage "violates plaintiffs' equal protection and due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution". The judge also wrote these powerful words:

"Equal treatment of all individuals under the law is not merely an aspiration — it is a constitutional mandate. Consequently, equal protection is at the heart of our legal system and is essential for the existence of a free society."

This makes Texas the third state to have its same-sex marriage ban overturned recently by a federal judge. The other states are Utah and Oklahoma. All three states have had those decisions stayed until they can be reviewed by a federal appeals court. Utah has appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Oklahoma is waiting to see the outcome of that appeal (since they are also covered by that appeals court). If the Texas decision is appealed (and it undoubtably will be), it will go to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

So far, the United States Supreme Court has been able to avoid making a decision on the constitutionality of same-sex marriages. But if the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals don't make the same decisions, then the U.S. Supreme Court will finally be forced to make a decision for the country as a whole. And that is a distinct possibility. Preliminary indications are that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals might uphold the decision of the federal judge in Utah (that declared Utah's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional), but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is a more conservative court and could overturn the Texas jude's decision.

Regardless of what these two appeals courts decide, it is time for the United States Supreme Court to stop avoiding this issue. The Fourteenth Amendment is very clear, and these same-sex marriage bans clearly violate that amendment. Opponents are going to try to claim these decisions violate their religious rights, but that is a ridiculous assertion. Allowing same-sex couples to marry does nothing to impinge on the religious rights of any person or church, and they can continue to practice their religious bigotry to their hearts content -- they will just no longer be able to force their own bigotry on others.

The majority of Americans support the equal right of the LGBT community to marry the person they love, and it is time for this issue to be put to rest once and for all.

2 comments:

  1. every step helps one move closer to their goal, thank you Justice Garcia for the correct decision.

    ReplyDelete

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