Texas judge rules state gay-marriage ban unconstitutional

By Amy R. Connolly   |   Feb. 18, 2015 at 12:59 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- A Texas judge ruled the state's ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional, adding to the growing number of rulings striking down bans nationwide.

Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman ruled as part of an estate dispute in which a woman sought to have her 8-year relationship with her late partner ruled as a common-law marriage.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said she couldn't begin issuing licenses immediately because state and county officials, including the state's Attorney General, need to review the ruling.

"For right now, the order doesn't tell me to start issuing marriage licenses, so I don't see a way where I have any authority to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples today," she said.

The decision is centered around a court case in which Sonemaly Phrasavath is seeking to have her marriage to Stella Powell recognized. Phrasavath said her wife put together a will but it was not notarized before her death in June 2014. Phrasavath argues the two were in a common-law marriage, entitling her to Powell's estate.

Phrasavath's attorney Brian Thompson said they were like any other married couple and deserve to be treated as such.

"They had an engagement party, they had a marriage ceremony down in Driftwood. Their friends and their family came to this marriage ceremony," he said. "They planned on having kids. They talked to a family therapist about possibly adopting children or having children biologically."

Last year, a federal judge declared the Texas ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional but stayed his own ruling. The case is being reviewed in a New Orleans appeals court.

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