First same-sex marriage in Texas happens

It may be the only one for awhile, but it will definitely not be the only one.

Despite Texas’ longstanding ban on same-sex marriages, two Austin women made history on Thursday when they became the first gay couple to legally wed in the state.

A judge directed the Travis County clerk to issue a marriage license to Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant. The order does not clear the way for other same-sex couples in the county to be married.

The order by state District Judge David Wahlberg of Travis County directed Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir to “cease and desist relying on the unconstitutional Texas prohibitions against same-sex marriage” and issue the couple a marriage license.

The license was issued under special circumstances because one of the women has “severe and immediate health concerns,” a county spokeswoman said in a statement.

BOR was the first to break the news. The Statesman fills in some details.

In their petition to Wahlberg, the couple said the inability to obtain a marriage license was causing them irreparable harm, particularly because Goodfriend has been diagnosed and treated for ovarian cancer.

Saying they had no adequate legal remedy to enforce their right to marry, the couple asked Wahlberg to issue a restraining order directing DeBeauvoir to issue a marriage license and waive the 72-hour waiting period.

At 9:25 a.m., Wahlberg’s order arrived at the county clerk’s office. Bryant and Goodfriend immediately filled out the paperwork and quickly walked to the site of their vows, fearing the state would attempt to step in and enforce the law and constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“Given the urgency and other circumstances in this case,” Wahlberg’s order said, “and the ongoing violation of plaintiffs’ rights, the court has concluded that good cause exists” to move forward with the marriage.

To get the license, the couple sued DeBeauvoir, and the county clerk emphasized that she is not issuing additional marriage licenses to same-sex couples but was complying with the court order.

You can see Judge Wahlberg’s order here. Not too surprisingly, AG Ken Paxton took action as well:

After the couple obtained the marriage license, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called Wahlberg’s order “erroneous” and asked the Texas Supreme Court to block his ruling. Paxton is seeking to void the marriage license and has also filed suit to keep the Travis County Clerk’s office from issuing marriage licenses to other same-sex couples.

“The law of Texas has not changed, and will not change due to the whims of any individual judge or county clerk operating on their own capacity anywhere in Texas,” Paxton said in a statement. “Activist judges don’t change Texas law and we will continue to aggressively defend the laws of our state and will ensure that any licenses issued contrary to law are invalid.”

Wahlberg’s order came on the heels of Tuesday’s ruling by Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman that said banning gay marriage is illegal. After Herman’s ruling prompted uncertainty among officials who were unsure what effect it has on gay marriage in the county, Paxton asked the Texas Supreme Court to intervene in the case and block Herman’s ruling.

The Texas Supreme Court granted Paxton’s requests Thursday afternoon, temporarily blocking both rulings.

Background on the probate case is here. You can see Paxton’s request for a stay here, and a copy of the Supreme Court’s orders here. According to the couple’s attorney, this does not void the marriage itself – the AG would have to sue them to try to nullify the license. (Longer version of the Chron story is here.)

At this point, I have no idea what will happen next. Until then, congratulations and mazel tov to Goodfriend and Bryant and their family. Hair Balls, Newsdesk, Equality Texas, Freedom to Marry, ThinkProgress, Unfair Park, the Observer, RG Ratcliffe, and Texas Leftist have more.

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