After day of joy and confusion, sole same-sex marriage in Texas remains on the books

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Sarah Goodfriend (left) and Suzanne Bryant celebrate their marriage at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. A public celebration centered around the couple, who obtained Texas’ first same-sex marriage license.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

The couple exchanged vows in front of their children and had an official Texas marriage license in hand — but for several hours Thursday afternoon, it was unclear whether Austin residents Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend were actually married, after all. 

Bryant and Goodfriend, who have been together for three decades, became the first same-sex couple to obtain a marriage license in Texas on Thursday morning. For now, they will remain the only same-sex couple to have done so. Thursday afternoon, the Texas Supreme Court issued a stay at the request of Attorney General Ken Paxton that prevented other same-sex marriage licenses in the state.

Watch footage from the couple's evening wedding reception:

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir granted the marriage license under the order of state district judge David Wahlberg. The Travis County Court issued the license because Goodfriend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last May. There was some confusion throughout the day about whether the license would remain valid after the Texas Supreme Court’s decision to issue the stay. 

Bryant and Goodfriend’s marriage is still valid, according to Chuck Herring, the couple’s attorney.

“The Supreme Court issued a stay order, but, in our view, it has no practical effect because we already obtained the relief,” Herring said. “We don’t want further action. The clients are married, and it’s over.”

A celebration occurred in honor of Goodfriend and Bryant's marriage at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Paxton said today’s marriage of Bryant and Goodfriend went against Texas law, making it invalid, according to a report in the Austin-American Statesman.

“The law of Texas has not changed and will not change due to the whims of any individual judge or county clerk operating on their own capacity anywhere in Texas,” Paxton said. “Activist judges don’t change Texas law, and we will continue to aggressively defend the laws of our state and will ensure that any licenses issued contrary to law are invalid.”

Herring said Paxton threatened to file a lawsuit to invalidate the marriage, but Paxton has not announced concrete plans to move forward. 

“Does he file a new lawsuit?” Herring said. “Sue a woman with ovarian cancer? What does he file? That’s the question, and he’s not answering that question. All he’s doing is making public statements that he’s unhappy and doesn’t like same-sex people getting married. That’s interesting, but he needs to come up with a legal procedure.”

Travis County Democratic Party Chair Jan Soifer opens Bryant and Goodfriend's party at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said he cannot think of anyone with the power to invalidate the couple’s marriage.

“My understanding is the marriage was already completed before the Supreme Court, so I don’t know who would have legal standing to challenge this marriage,” Doggett said. “It’s amazing the machinations people will go through to prevent the commitment of three decades from being recognized.”

Goodfriend said the battle for marriage equality is an essential Texan issue.

“In Texas, we really believe in personal responsibility and personal freedom, and the freedom to marry is the ultimate exercise of personal freedom,” Goodfriend said. “When a loving committed couple like Suzanne and I, and all the other couples — when the marriage is recognized, it only makes Texas stronger.”

Goodfriend and Bryant share a kiss in front of supporters at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff