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Arguments Heard In Appeals Court Over Gay Marriage

Two gay couples who have sued to overturn Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage were in New Orleans Friday for the next stage of their legal fight.

Updated at 5:30 p.m.

Austin couple speak
Austin couple Nicole Dimetman, left, listens to her wife Cleopatra De Leon speak Friday afternoon after oral arguments at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The court heard appeals concerning gay marriage bans in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. De Leon and Dimetman were married in 2009 in Massachusetts but want more legal rights in Texas.

 

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard three cases in a row involving gay marriage bans.

Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas each got an hour before the three-judge panel.

Roberta Kaplan represented the gay couples from Mississippi.

She said afterwards the arguments in each case were very similar because the Constitution applies to every state.

“People are getting married for god’s sakes, in places like Utah and Oklahoma. And what’s happening? Absolutely nothing. It’s no big deal. They’re living like married couples, like their friends and neighbors, and that’s how it should be,” said Kaplan.

Arguments inside the courtroom, where recording is not allowed, often mentioned children.

Lawyers for gay marriage said children of gay parents should also get the same marriage protections, like tax savings, as children in straight families.

They also spoke about equality, dignity and rights.

But Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell argued that marriage is more like a subsidy — a package of benefits that Texas does not have to offer to everyone.

He compared it to free school lunches — government doesn’t have an interest in giving free lunch to all kids, just lower-income kids.

Neel Lane is the attorney representing the Texas couples. 

“I want to talk to the 600,000 gay and lesbian of the citizens of the state of Texas who live under a badge of inferiority. My clients have courageously fought to vindicate your rights,” said Lane.

He said Mitchell was defining marriage too narrowly.

“I don’t see marriage as a food line or as a benefit check. I see marriage as a loving committed relationship,” said Lane. 

A decision isn’t expected for months, but one of the Texas litigants, Mark Phariss, said he felt confident things would change.

“Vic and I knew when we came here today that we were on the right side of history and we were on the right side of love and compassion,” said Phariss. 

In Houston, U.S. Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spoke about the issue.

“In my view, marriage is a question for the states and the constitution leaves it to the states. And if the citizens of a state decide that they want to adopt traditional marriage of one man and one woman, which is what the citizens of Texas have decided, then the courts should respect that decision and we should not have unelected judges imposing their policy preferences rather than the views of the voters,” said Cruz.  

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement Texans overwhelmingly supported the 2005 amendment that defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

 

Gail Delaughter contributed the Ted Cruz quote. 

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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