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Lawsuit challenges Texas ban on same-sex marriage

A lawsuit by two same-sex couples, one female and one male, challenges the current ban on gay and lesbian marriage in the Texas state Constitution. That constitutional provision, adopted by voters in 2005, defines marriage as limited to those between one man and one woman, and prohibits Texas and local officials from taking actions that would recognize same-sex marriages. This has rapidly become an intense family law issue across the country, with 14 states now recognizing same-sex marriage.

Additionally, after the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, federal agencies have started to recognize same-sex marriages entered into in the states that allow them, regardless of where the couples subsequently live. As a result, same-sex couples married in California or New Jersey who live in Texas are able to file joint tax returns as sanctioned by the IRS, obtain spousal benefits if one of them works for a federal agency or collect spousal Social Security benefits.

Additionally, after the ruling, the Department of Defense extended benefits to same-sex couples and their dependents. This lead to a conflict between federal and state law that left the Texas National Guard in a quandary, since the federal policy now requires it to recognize same-sex marriages, but Texas state law prohibits it from doing so.

The plaintiffs in the immediate case seek a judicial declaratory judgment that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment and its guarantees of equal protection of laws and due process. Defendants in the federal lawsuit include the governor of Texas, the state Attorney General, the state health commissioner and the Bexar County Clerk. The lawsuit, if successful, would result in a major change in Texas family law.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Cleopatra Sues Texas for Right to Marry" David Lee, Oct. 30, 2013

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