It's a Valentine's Day tradition for some same-sex couples in Houston. Every year around Feb. 14, they gather outside the civil courthouse with signs advocating for marriage equality.
Then, they go inside and request a marriage license at the district clerk's office — which, of course, they know will be denied.
“How may I help you all today?”
“We like to apply for a marriage license.”
“OK. Unfortunately, Texas does not recognize same-sex marriages today. So unfortunately I'm not able to issue that today. Sorry.”
One couple, Mark Eggleston and Darrin Brindle, has come here every year for the last nine years. And Brindle says even though it's a staged action to make a statement, getting denied each time is not getting easier.
“That does hurt. It's tough. Just to be told ‘no,' you know. When I know my sister and any other straight couple could go and get married.”
The two actually got married in California right after gay marriage was first legalized there in 2008. But that doesn't help them here, because Texas doesn't recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
That could change however. Just this week, a federal judge heard a case of two same-sex couples who are asking for a stay on Texas's constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Aaron Bruhl is an associate professor at the University of Houston Law Center. He says that case could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mark Eggleston and Darrin Brindle have a nine year Valentine's Day ritual, a staged action, to make a statement about the couple's inability to legally marry.
“It's likely that sometime in the near future that judge will issue a ruling and it could be appealed to the appellate court, the United States Court of Appeals for the fifth circuit. And then from there possibly to the Supreme Court.”
And that's just one case. Throughout the country similar lawsuits have popped up in the last months. And Bruhl says it's likely that one or several of them will be the change in the near future.
“It really is pretty amazing how quickly things are changing, both social attitudes and how fast things have been moving in the courts. I think very few people could have foreseen how quickly all of this has been happening. It's almost every day there's a development now.”
For the couples protesting in Houston, things can't move fast enough.
Tamara Augustine and Thomanique Hubbard have been together for a year. Augustine says they've never considered getting married in a state where it's legal.
“Why would we have to go to another state and give them our funds and give them our dollars when Texas is where we live and Texas is where we're from.”
So they'll probably be back at the district clerk's office next Valentine's Day, only to be told that they can't get married here.