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Meet the SA-tied Couples Suing Texas for Marriage Equality

Photo: Courtesy Photos, License: N/A

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Avid travelers Vic Holmes (left) and Mark Phariss(right) visiting Antartica in 2013

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Cleopatra De Leon (left) and her spouse Nicole Dimetman


“Political opponents of marriage equality always want to point back to the ballot measure in 2005, and they would like Texans to believe that’s still where the public is,” said Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, from his Austin office. “But the reality is that feelings about the freedom to marry have changed over the last 10 years or so and those changes have been happening in Texas as well.”

He continued, “The polls show more and more that Texans know someone that is affected by these restrictions and know people that are in love and want to be able to commit to each other through the institution of marriage.”

The Equality Texas survey of Texas voters also found 65.7 percent of respondents support extending domestic partnership benefits to government or public university employees (a rise of 3.4 percent) and 52 percent of Texans support recognizing the same-sex couples married out-of-state (a 3.6 percent upturn of support). The most recent prominent same-sex marriage of Texans came courtesy of Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city, who wed her partner of 23 years in Palm Springs, Calif., in mid-January. The marriage almost instantly drew criticism from state GOP leaders, none louder than Lieutenant Governor hopeful, current state senator and conservative radio host Dan Patrick, who accused her of trying to “turn Texas into California.” Parker glibly replied to her haters. “I took four days off,” Parker told KHOU 11 News. “I had to leave my home state and make a little wedge of time to marry the woman I love. They can get over it.”

Riding the momentum of the national LGBT rights landscape, Equality Texas has near-future plans to launch a storytelling-based campaign, “Why Marriage Matters,” with the aim of detailing the real-life accounts of committed LGBT couples who want to see their state legalize same-gender marriage.

Smith says the campaign is meant to further increase the level of public support when it comes to marriage in Texas and stress the fact gay and lesbian couples “want and need to have the same rights and access to marriage in order to build and protect their families.” Those equal protections include, but aren’t limited to, spouse-based medical care and tax and social security benefits.

In addition to an evident decline in public resistance to gay marriage, recent favorable rulings in conservative states like Oklahoma and Utah have infused optimism among gay rights advocates. A federal district court judge struck down the ban in Utah deeming it unconstitutional, allowing 1,400 gay couples to wed. However, the state quickly sought and was granted a stoppage of the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, the law remains in limbo, pending the decision of an appeals court. A similar ruling in Oklahoma found the ban tantamount to “moral disapproval” and exclusionary to one class of citizens. Likewise, the ruling was halted and awaits an appeal decision.

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