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Texas Gay Marriage Ruling Sparks Debate

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Stephanie Lucero
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RICHARDSON (CBSDFW.COM) - A federal court ruling has fueled debate across the nation. A judge on Wednesday struck down the Texas ban on same-sex marriage, calling it unconstitutional. But that does not mean that gay couples will be permitted to marry in Texas any time soon.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia said that states do not have the power to deny people the fundamental right to marry and enjoy its benefits. Response to the court ruling has been quick and divided.

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The gay community in the Oak Lawn neighborhood of Dallas rallied in support of the decision. Two key figures in the fight returned to their home in North Texas on Wednesday. Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes are one of two gay couples who sued the State of Texas for the right to marry. They learned in a text from their attorney that they had won.

“Regardless of what we were expecting, we were really thrilled with what we got,” said Holmes.

“I started crying,” added Phariss. “And I don’t cry. I only cry at funerals. And it was just this emotional, welled up out of me.”

A swift response also came out of Austin, where Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is now preparing an appeal. “There are good and well-meaning people on both sides,” he said. But Abbott added that the state does have the right to set its own marriage laws.

Gov. Rick Perry also quickly responded to the ruling, releasing a statement. “Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our Constitution, and it is not the role of the federal goverment to overturn the will of our citizens,” he said.

Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis released a statement of her own. “I believe that all Texans who love one another and are committed to spending their lives together should be allowed to marry,” she said.

“Been together almost 17 years, and now we’re on the cusp of finally being able to marry,” stated Phariss. “There’s still some hurdles to go, but we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”

The opponents of same-sex marriage have called this a bad ruling, one that is disappointing, but not surprising. “The right to marry is not a constituational right,” explained Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas. “If it were, then 15-year-olds, siblings, polygamists could all marry. Our nation’s recognized the state right to define what marriage is.”

The case, and others like it, could make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Garcia even anticipated an appeal, and is allowing the current law to remain in place for now. “I would not be surprised to see the U.S. Supreme Court strike down all state laws banning same-sex marriage,” said Jeffress, “but that should not keep us from speaking out.”

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