Cleopatra De Leon, left, and partner Nicole Dimetman argue Texas officials are violating their rights. (Eric Gay / AP)
San Antonio— A lawyer representing Texas asked a federal judge Wednesday to reject pleas from two gay couples to suspend the state constitution’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, calling the legalization of same-sex marriages “a more recent innovation than Facebook.”
Mike Murphy, an assistant Texas solicitor general, told District Judge Orlando Garcia if he lifted the state’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage he would be injecting himself into a social and political debate that should be left to lawmakers.
“These questions are political questions, not constitutional rights,” he told the court. “Same-sex marriage is not included in the fundamental right of marriage … it is a more recent innovation than Facebook.”
Garcia scheduled Wednesday’s hearing, which he noted was on President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, to consider a motion by two couples for a preliminary injunction immediately lifting the Texas gay marriage ban pending a trial later this year. Garcia did not immediately rule or give an indication when he might release a written decision but predicted this case, or one of 22 similar ones in other states, “will make its way to the Supreme Court.”
The case before Garcia is the first of its kind in Texas, and in the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes filed a federal civil rights lawsuit complaining that Texas’ ban unconstitutionally denies them the fundamental right to marry because of their sexual orientation. The other lawsuit was filed by Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, who argue that Texas officials are violating their rights and those of their 2-year-old child by not recognizing their marriage license from Massachusetts.
Holmes and De Leon are both U.S. Air Force veterans who served in San Antonio, though both couples have since moved away.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican running for governor, opposes legalizing gay marriage and has vowed to defend the law. But civil rights groups recently won injunctions against similar bans elsewhere.