UPDATED: Travis County Allows First Texas Gay Marriage

Travis County clerk issues marriage license to gay couple this morning

Flanked by their two daughters Dawn and Ting, newly married Austin gay couple, Sarah Goodfriend (l) and Suzanne Bryant show off their marriage license with Travis County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir.
Flanked by their two daughters Dawn and Ting, newly married Austin gay couple, Sarah Goodfriend (l) and Suzanne Bryant show off their marriage license with Travis County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir.

UPDATED: Conservative Attorney General Ken Paxton swiftly filed and was granted a temporary emergency stay by the Texas Supreme Court to halt gay marriages in Travis County after this morning’s historic order that allowed a long-time lesbian couple to wed.

However, the stay does not void the marriage of Austin residents, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, but does prevent additional gay couples from marrying in the County.

“Our claim is over, they’re married, there’s nothing else to be done,” attorney Charles Herring told the Chronicle earlier today. “There’s nothing pending, our case is over as far as we’re concerned.”

While Paxton has sought to claim the court’s decision invalidates the couples’ marriage, a statement from the County Clerk’s office additionally stresses today’s marriage has been unchanged. “I have every reason to believe that the actions I took this morning were legally correct based on the trial court’s order, and that the license my office issued was then and is now valid. There is no further action for me to take at this time,” said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir.

In his motion, Paxton argues higher courts are now deliberating the Texas marriage ban and so “[t]here is no need to disrupt that process now, with a Temporary Restraining Order issued with no notice to the State and no opportunity for the State to defend its laws.” Paxton further argued the “inevitable disruption” caused by the couples’ order would present, “potential harm not just to [the State] but to the Plaintiffs themselves and to the public interest at large.”

Governor Greg Abbott also dampened the LGBT victory with a disapproving and expected statement reminding residents the Texas Constitution defines marriage as consisting “only of the union of one man and one woman.” The state attorney general’s office has continually defended the 2005 Texas constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in court with clinical arguments that stress the primary purpose of marriage is procreation.

LGBT advocates expressed anger and frustration toward Paxton and the GOP’s vehement fight to repeal the marriage order, especially in light of Goodfriend’s medical state. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in May, Goodfriend was rushed into emergency surgery; the life-threatening event pushed her to see her 30-year relationship with Bryant recognized by law. “We’re disappointed that Republicans like Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott oppose the marriage of this loving and dedicated Travis County couple, and that they continue to tell Texans who they can or cannot marry,” said Texas Democratic Party Spokesperson Javier Gamboa in a statement.

Earlier today Bryant and Goodfriend celebrated the unprecedented marriage – officiated by Rabbi Kerry Baker this morning at the Travis County Tax Assessor Collector's Office off Airport Blvd – with daughters Dawn and Ting, friend and Travis County Democratic Chairwoman Jan Soifer and Herring downtown. Dawn, 18 years old, said she was “shocked” and “incredibly glad” to witness her parents’ wedding, “especially in a state like Texas.” Bryant, a local attorney, hopes the order paves the way for future couples, despite the opposition.

“We’re the face behind this at the moment, but there are thousands of gay couples in Texas, many of them raising kids and their love is no different than ours, their family life is no different than ours,” Bryant, a local attorney, told the Chronicle following the Thursday afternoon press conference. “What we really hope is that this will crack open the door and let everyone else have an opportunity. We’re sorry that this doesn’t just open the door altogether, but we hope it moves things forward.”

“We were just very blessed to have a cracker jack legal team that figured out how to make this happen. Our hope is that people will just accept our love and marriage and let it be,” she added.

As the couples did, Herring made a point to show gratitude toward the County Clerk. "I especially want to thank Dana DeBeauvoir, who complied with the law today and began ushering a new era in Texas,” he said.

The Travis County Democratic Party plans to host a marriage equality party at Highland Lounge at 6 pm.

EARLIER: Early this morning, history was made as the first gay couple in Texas received a marriage license in Travis County.

Austin residents, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, secured a temporary restraining order from Travis County District Judge David Wahlberg allowing Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir to grant them a lawful marriage.

In a statement, the County notes the situation applies to a medically fragile couple – Goodfriend suffers from ovarian cancer and her “future remains uncertain,” according to court documents – and any additional licenses must also be court ordered. It was "crucial" that the 9am marriage be validated before any opposition could be tipped off to the plan, reports Burnt Orange Report.

“Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law for the damage and the continuing harm that this course of action is causing them and will continue to cause them, and thus the only remedy available to Plaintiffs is the issuance of a temporary restraining order to prevent that ongoing unconstitutional denial of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights,” wrote Wahlberg.

Judge Guy Herman ruled the Texas ban on marriage equality unconstitutional earlier this week at the conclusion of an estate lawsuit; DeBeauvoir and county officials, weighing their options and getting pushback from Attorney General Ken Paxton, did not immediately issue licenses at the time. Meanwhile, Texans await a decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, who still have yet to rule on the Texas ban after hearing oral arguments in early January.

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