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Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Gay Marriage Ban

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Wedding cake topper figurines are seen at a bakery. (credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Wedding cake topper figurines are seen at a bakery. (credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

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AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) - A federal judge has struck down Texas’ ban on gay marriage and has postponed action pending an appeal.

United States District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio issued his ruling, saying the Texas law violates the U.S. Constitution.  Judge Garcia then immediately released a stay of his own order, which will prevent same-sex couples from getting married as the appeals process continues.

“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” Garcia wrote. “These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.”

The ruling is the latest in a series of victories for gay rights activists following similar decisions in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia.

But this was the first time a court in the conservative 5th Circuit has reached such a decision.   Under federal court rules, a judge may suspend a law if he or she believes the plaintiffs have a strong case and will suffer if the law is enforced. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was expected to file an expedited appeal.

Two couples filed separate lawsuits challenging the Texas law.  Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes of Plano filed their federal civil rights lawsuit saying Texas’ ban unconstitutionally denied them the fundamental right to marry because of their sexual orientation. Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman filed a lawsuit saying Texas officials were violating their rights by not recognizing their marriage conducted in a state where gay marriage is legal.

“We are thrilled with the ruling and remain hopeful that this matter will continue to move quickly through the courts. Ultimately, the repeal of Texas’ ban will mean that our son will never know how this denial of equal protections demeaned our family and belittled his parents’ relationship. We look forward to the day when, surrounded by friends and family, we can renew our vows in our home state of Texas,” said Dimetman and DeLeon in a written statement.

POLL: Do you agree with the decision?

Todd Staples, a candidate for lieutenant governor who drafted the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, denounced the court’s decision.

“I am disappointed that judicial activism is once again trying to trump the will of the people. This ruling is the poster child of the culture war occurring in America today,” he said.

Attorneys for the state argued that Texas voters had imposed the ban through a referendum and that Texas officials were within their rights to defend marriage traditions.

Another gay couple has filed a separate lawsuit in federal court in Austin. In that case, two men argue that the ban discriminates against them based on their gender. That case is scheduled for a hearing later this year.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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