By M.J. Callahan, Bleah B. Patterson, Pam Paz
A crowd of about 30 gathered Wednesday outside the John H. Wood Jr. U.S. Courthouse awaiting the verdict of a court case that could overturn Texas’ constitutional prohibition of marriage between same-sex couples.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia did not immediately rule in the case of Nicoles Dimetman and her spouse, Cleopatra De Leon, who were married in Massachusetts in 2009, and Vic Holmes and his life partner, Mark Phariss, both of Plano, who want to marry.
The plaintiffs were asking the court to prohibit the state from enforcing its ban on same-sex marriage while this case winds it way through the courts.
Garcia said gay people are free to marry, just not someone of the same sex.
He said his ruling isn’t important because he realizes either way, the decision will be appealed and taken to the U.S. Supreme Court. He did say when his ruling would be forthcoming.
Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, worries the reason the judge is taking time to consider his verdict isn’t for the benefit of the people, but because he realizes he’ll be remembered based on the decision he makes and he wants to protect his legacy.
Inside the courtroom Michael Murphy, assistant solicitor general from the Texas attorney general’s office, argued Texas needs to preserve a traditional view of marriage and family and asked the judge to deny the request that would give same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual married couples.
Neel Lane, attorney for the plaintiffs, argued it is harmful to family and children to deny same-sex couples the rights married couples receive in time of need without having to file (wills, power of attorney, divorce rights) for them.
In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed an act known as DOMA Defense of Marriage Act.
DOMA states, “No state, territory or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under
the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.”
In 2011, however, President Obama instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend DOMA.
On the courthouse steps, Pandora Burnett, who recently moved here from Kansas with her partner, Pamela Huerta, doesn’t understand why the state does not change its constitution.
“It would save them a lot of trouble — they wouldn’t have to keep spending our money to bicker,” Burnett said. “It should be a person’s decision whether or not they care what some ‘god’ thinks about it.”
Patrick Von Dohlen, a member of San Antonio Family Association, worries changing the definition of family will change the definition of Texas, saying “one man and one women build a family.” “We’re the state who believes natural laws need to be abided by,” he said.
Waiting anxiously for a peek inside of the courtroom, homeschooling mom Darla Richter brought her five children, including her 7-month old son, to view the process for the older children’s civics lesson. “We’re here to support traditional marriage between a man and a women,” Richter said, “I wanted my kids to see the process of how decisions like this are made.”
Her son, Joshua Richter, 18, is a senior and says he wanted to see what was going on.
“I’m against homosexuality, not the people but the act. I just wanted to see what they were going to do and I wanted people to know I’m here standing for what I believe in,” he said. “In popular culture, they seem to want the public to believe all of the old people are conservative and all of the young people are liberal. But I’m not and neither are any of my friends.”
Burnett has four children and worries about her children’s rights in Texas if something happens to her.
Marcus Shaw, president of the Permian Basin Pride from Midland, a group celebrating the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community, drove five hours.
“Inevitably, we want equal rights, but in the state of Texas, that will be challenging,” Shaw said.
A group of Shaw’s friends, who call themselves “heterosexual allies,” joined him in support of same-sex marriage.
Shaw said he will be “following the case continuously.”
Jennifer Falcon, Leader of the Get Equal movement, said, “Our friends are family are children are all LBGT. Allies are the most important to start in the fight because just like the civil rights movement when white people joined in, that’s what really pushed the movement forward, every little step.” Falcon came with her daughters, Kayla, 9, and Alan,6, sporting faces painted with the letters NOH8 from the Get Equal rally held the night before.
NOH8 is a charitable organization whose mission is to promote marriage, gender and human equality through education, advocacy, social media, and visual protest.
“I just keep thinking if this was my daughter I would want her to have everything. I fight as hard as possible to make sure she would have the same rights that I have,” Falcon said.
Amy Bonham and her mother, Mary Schultz, also attended the proceedings. Bonham and Schultz are not gay, but Bonham’s 17-year-old daughter is gay and they were there in support of her. Bonham’s daughter is a senior at Roosevelt High School and is the president of Gay Straight Alliance Club.
Mary Schulz also noted the reason gay marriage is not accepted is because it goes against tradition. “What’s traditional anymore these days?” she asked.