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Could Same-Sex Marriage Come to Texas?

In recent weeks, same-sex couples in Maine, Maryland and Washington have gotten the right to marry. That's after voters in each of those states approved ballot measures clearing the way for them.

That has some people wondering: Will same-sex couples in Texas be allowed to marry?

A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court expected later this year has some in Texas thinking it could be possible.

Opposition to gay marriage may be weakening across the country, and the same thing is happening in Texas if you believe a poll taken in October. The survey by the Texas Tribune and the University of Texas shows 70 percent of the state’s residents support legal recognition for same-sex couples. But an amendment to the state constitution approved by voters in 2005 limits marriage to relationships between a man and a woman. Opponents of that amendment are hopeful that a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court next year could nullify it.

The court will rule on California’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

“It’s possible that the holding in that case could determine that the right to marriage is a fundamental right that’s been violated by those states -- not just California, but obviously potentially including Texas – that restrict who may be married,” said Robert Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas law school.

A second case to be considered by the Supreme Court will examine the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which also defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman.

Brian Thompson, a lawyer who sits on the board of the gay rights group Equality Texas, says that ruling is unlikely to have a major impact on the legality of gay marriage on Texas.  

“The one way it could possibly have an effect is if you’re a same-sex couple married outside of Texas," said Thompson. "If DOMA is struck down, the federal government might be forced to recognized that marriage, even though the state of Texas does not recognized that marriage. So for purposes of federal law, you might be married, but I don’t think it would have much of an effect on the state law recognition of same-sex marriages.”

The court is expected to hear arguments in late March and issue a decision by the end of June.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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