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What Does the Alabama Marriage Ruling Mean for Texas?


Alabama is now the37thstate to allow same-sex marriage. In January, a federal judge struck down that state’s gay marriage ban, and a federal appeals court let it stand.  

The process went like this:

The Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – which takes up cases from Alabama – declined to block the district court’s ruling in favor of gay marriage.

Then the U.S. Supreme Court also refused to block the district court's ruling.

In Texas, however, the process has been different.

The Texas judge who ruled that laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional did block his own ruling, knowing the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which takes up federal cases from Texas, would agree to review the case.

This took place in February 2014. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio issued the stay.

Neel Lane is the attorney representing the same-sex couples in Texas.

"Texas continues to be in that small and shrinking group of states where people of the same sex can’t marry the person they love," Lane says.

Marriages in Alabama don’t have a legal effect on the Texas case, but Lane says the appeals court deciding on same-sex marriage in Texas may be taking note that the Supreme Court didn’t step in.

Chuck Smith is the executive director with Equality Texas in Austin. He says before Judge Garcia issued his stay, fewer states in the U.S. allowed gay marriage; the Supreme Court wouldn't even hear cases from other circuits.

"When the Fifth Circuit issues a ruling, if it reaffirms Judge Garcia, then at that point in time, marriage could be legal in [Texas], although similar to Alabama, we would expect that the state would immediately ask the Supreme Court to institute a stay of the Fifth Circuit ruling," Smith says.

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