World

Texas AG moves to overturn marriage of lesbian couple

The ban on same-sex marriages in Texas has been "needlessly cast in doubt" after a judge gave a lesbian Austin couple permission to tie the knot, Attorney General Ken Paxton told the state's Supreme Court on Friday.

'Legal chaos' will ensue if the court doesn't overturn Austin judge's ruling

Suzanne Bryant, left, and Sarah Goodfriend celebrate after being granted a marriage licence in Austin, Texas, on Thursday evening. Defying the state's longstanding ban on gay marriage, the couple wed in Austin aunder a special court order because Goodfriend has ovarian cancer. (The Daily Texan/Daulton Venglar/Associated Press)

The ban on same-sex marriages in Texas has been "needlessly cast in doubt" after a judge gave a lesbian Austin couple permission to tie the knot, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the state's Supreme Court on Friday.

Paxton asked the justices to declare the marriage licence issued to Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend invalid, warning of "legal chaos" if the court doesn't make clear that a judge wrongly allowed the couple to wed.

"A clear statement is necessary so that all judges within Texas understand that this Court or the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of Texas law," Paxton wrote.

Attorneys for the couple contend the marriage remains valid, and said Paxton would need to sue the clerk who issued the licence, as well as Bryant and Goodfriend, if he wanted the nuptials voided.

Attorney General Ken Paxton warned the Texas Supreme Court on Friday of 'legal chaos' if the justices do not revoke the marriage licence granted a lesbian couple by a judge in Austin. (Associated Press file photo)
"If he's in the business of suing loving couples who've been together 30 years, one of whom has cancer, then I think it's a sad day for Texas," attorney Brian Thompson said.

State District Judge David Wahlberg, an elected Democrat, on Thursday ordered the Travis County Clerk to issue the couple a licence. He based his order on a probate court judge's ruling on Tuesday that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Paxton, a Republican, said Wahlberg relied on an order that violated state law — because he wasn't notified first of the constitutional challenge.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, whose office issued the licence, said that Paxton's allegations "are not accurate." She added, "That's not the way that it happened."

Wahlberg declined to comment.

The number of states in which gay and lesbian couples can marry has nearly doubled to 37 since October after the U.S. Supreme allowed lower court rulings to stand and rejected state efforts to keep same sex marriage bans in place.

The Texas Supreme Court acted quickly Thursday after an emergency appeal by Paxton to block other potential gay marriages, making the nuptials somewhat bittersweet for Bryant and Goodfriend.

"We just feel like we were in the right place at the right time, to maybe put a nice crack in that door that's going to open up for all Texans," Bryant said.

Goodfriend, 58, has ovarian cancer. Wahlberg raised the "severity and uncertainty" of her condition in granting the women permission to marry, sending the couple scrambling through a Travis County clerk building in case state Republican leaders got wind and intervened.

Courts in Indiana made a similar exception for a lesbian couple in April because one of the women was dying of cancer and wanted her partner's name on her death certificate. A federal appeals court overturned Indiana's ban in September.

A federal judge in San Antonio last year overturned Texas's same-sex marriage ban but put his ruling on hold while the state appeals to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.