Texas Supreme Court

Suzanne Bryant (left) and Sarah Goodfriend hold up their marriage license after a press conference on Thursday afternoon. They became the first same-sex couple to marry in Texas on Thursday morning.
Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Supreme Court’s stay on the state’s same-sex marriage ban may remain in effect until the expected Supreme Court ruling this summer, according to Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information at the Texas Supreme Court.

“Somebody is going to rule on this, and it’s the U.S. Supreme Court, definitively, in three months,” McCarthy said. “So what the court has done is say, ‘Stop. Nobody move.’”

On Thursday, Travis County Judge David Wahlberg issued a single marriage license to Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend. The two were granted the license and married, making them the first same-sex couple to marry in Texas.

The Texas Supreme Court issued a stay Thursday in response to a request by Attorney General Ken Paxton, halting all further same-sex marriages in the state. The stay did not include an end date, but it will presumably end with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling this summer. 

Courts issuing a stay are not required to provide an end date, according UT law professor F. Scott McCown.

“[The stay] would just be [over] when the court made its decision,” McCown said. 

Paxton submitted a petition Friday to the Texas Supreme Court asking that the court overturn Wahlberg’s ruling, potentially voiding Bryant and Goodfriend’s marriage. 

The couple’s attorney, Chuck Herring, said in a previous interview that Paxton’s petition will not successfully end the marriage since the marriage has already occurred.

“We all know the U.S. Supreme Court is the court that is going to decide any remaining issues concerning the constitutionality of same-sex marriage prohibition,” Herring said.

While McCarthy does not know if the petition can revoke the marriage, he said he thinks Paxton’s filing not be successful. 

“I believe the Attorney General believes this petition would invalidate that marriage license,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know if his mandamus petition really goes that far.” 

There are no immediate legal ramifications with Paxton’s opposition to Bryant and Goodfriend’s marriage, McCarthy said. 

“Down the long term, maybe,” McCarthy said. “Let’s say one dies, and the other comes in and says, ‘I am the person who inherits from my spouse,’ and someone else jumps in and says this is not a valid marriage.”

Rogelio Meza, Queer Student Alliance co-director and microbiology junior, said he agrees with McCarthy’s assessment. He said he thinks Texas’ Supreme Court will not legalize same-sex marriage independently. He thinks the decision to permit same-sex marriage will depend on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this summer. 

“I’m very disappointed, yet, not surprised at Texas trying to stop same-sex marriage here in the state,” Meza said. “A couple already got married. Nothing happened. The world didn’t explode. I feel Texas is trying to hold on to that conservative ideal.” 

Marisa Kent, QSA co-director and marketing junior, said she was also not surprised by the ruling.

“It was a little frustrating because the ruling [allowing the marriage] was made for a specific reason, and for them to change the decision and say nothing is going to change until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision is frustrating,” Kent said. “It’s something that I knew the Texas government would do without any afterthought.”

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

Suzanne Bryant (left) and Sarah Goodfriend hold up their marriage license after a press conference on Thursday afternoon. They became the first same-sex couple to marry in Texas on Thursday morning.
Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant were married Thursday morning in Austin. They are the first same-sex couple to get married in the state of Texas. They were married as a result of a court order issued by State District Judge David Wahlberg in reaction to the news of Goodfriend’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer. But now that the Texas Supreme Court has stayed all future such marriages, much remains in doubt. Still, we hope that this is just the first of many same-sex marriages in Texas.

The tide is turning as more and more states are lifting bans on same-sex marriage, either by popular initative or by court order. Gay marriage is currently legal in 37 states. In 2012, only eight states allowed marriage between same-sex partners. Although the  marriage was performed under special circumstances and the county clerk’s office has no intention of issuing more same-sex marriage licenses except under court order, the fact remains that a gay couple were legally married in a red state where bans on “sodomy” are still in place in the state penal code. We hope progress in the courts will not make this a one-time occurrence. 

Predictably, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has requested a reaffirmation of the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages from the Texas Supreme Court in response to a probate judge ruling the ban on such marriages unconstitutional. In addition to the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday, Paxton hopes to reverse progress by having Goodfriend and Bryant’s marriage voided, a move that had not been successful as of our Thursday deadline. But while Paxton’s political pandering, and the Supreme Court’s acquiescence, may play well with the religious right, he clearly hasn’t considered the concerns of the morally right. 

Goodfriend and Bryant’s unbridled joy after their marriage is evident in the pictures and video released from the event. These two women love each other, have raised two daughters and are now fighting cancer together. Their passion and dedication reflect an ideal of marriage that any couple, gay or straight, would strive for. The opposition needs to move beyond the shallow consideration of gender and ask itself what it thinks marriage is truly about. This couple fits the bill. 

Paxton and those opposing this long overdue marriage are operating on the basis of their hidebound ideals. Their idea of small government ironically includes managing the personal lives of their constituents based on personal beliefs and revulsions. It is time to catch up with the rest of the nation and allow these couples to marry because they deserve the benefits that come with marriage, especially in situations like Goodfriend and Bryant’s. Let them remain married and make it so others can do the same.

Horns Up: After a great deal of controversy and debate, the San Antonio City Council voted 8-3 to include the LGBT community in its list of classes protected from discrimination. Although Austin, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth all have similar protections on the books, the updated ordinance in San Antonio became a hotly contested issue in recent weeks. City Councilwoman Elisa Chan came under fire after being caught on tape calling homosexuality “disgusting,” and opponents of the ordinance mounted a campaign suggesting that it would be used to erode religious liberty in the city. Religious liberty does not grant anyone license to persecute others for their identity, and we applaud San Antonio for extending protection to its gay and transgender citizens.

Horns Down: Dear no-reply@manage-pna.gw.utexas.edu, words cannot express how much we resent you for informing us, with the smart-alecky “Ooops!” of one who knows they are a safe distance away from a punch in the face, that we are “out of bandwidth.” We’ve been here for, like, a week, and it’s way too soon to have to pay five dollars like some sort of internet-junkie Oliver Twist just to research the rest of this Horns Up, Horns Down.

Horns Up: Nine years of service as the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court is more than enough.  But even so, we’re sad to see Wallace Jefferson go. Jefferson, who currently holds the position, announced this week that he will resign at the end of the month. During his time as Supreme Court Justice, Jefferson, the first African-American to hold the office, promoted initiatives for transparency in the courts and pushed reforms to the juvenile justice system. Chief Justice Jefferson smartly considered the practical policy decisions of his legal choices and consequently helped foster a culture in the court that considered the needs of all Texans. He will be missed.

Horns Down: The 2013 grape harvest in Texas has proven to be one of the worst in recorded history. Texas Monthly reported that due to a string of record-breaking spring freezes in March and April vines are under-producing or dying at such a level that the summer harvest has been reduced practically to nothing. It’s bad news for Texas wine aficionados, but even worse news for the growers and their employees. One can only hope for better luck next year.

 

As reported by the Texas Tribune on Sept. 4, the Texas Supreme Court might rule this month on Rodriguez v. Boerjan: a case that seems straightforward, but highlights a gray area in the legal status afforded to undocumented immigrants.

In 2007, a car with a group of undocumented immigrants tried to get around a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Brooks County by crossing land belonging to the Mestena Group, a company dealing largely in uranium production. After Philip Boerjan, a security guard, stopped the vehicle, the driver took off, starting a high-speed pursuit down a dusty caliche road. The chase ended in a rollover accident that killed three of the car’s passengers — a couple and their 7-year-old daughter.

The family of the deceased filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Boerjan and the company, claiming that the pursuit constituted negligence, assault and other related offenses.

The defendants responded that they were not liable for the deaths, as the plaintiffs’ wrongful death charges “are inextricably intertwined with the decedents’ illegal activities and, accordingly, are barred under the Unlawful Acts Rule.”

The Unlawful Acts Rule is a long-standing doctrine that bars people from seeking recompense for damages if they cannot separate the claims from their own illegal activity.

A state court, sympathetic to that argument, dismissed the charges in 2011. After the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, Boerjan and the company appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

No one contests that the occupants of the car were trespassing on private property, lending credence to Boerjan and the Mestena Group’s arguments.

We concur with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who filed an amicus brief on their behalf that read in part, “Key to the preservation and promotion of agriculture is the protection of private property owners’ rights ... The court must recognize and continue to apply established Texas law recognizing these rights.”

Boerjan, in his capacity as a security guard, was well within his rights to confront and pursue intruders, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.

Even so, the case raises a difficult question. Undocumented immigrants are committing an unlawful act simply by being on American soil. Does the Unlawful Acts Rule grant immunity to anyone who normally would be liable for damages, as long as the victim is in this country illegally?

The Mexican government and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund both filed amicus briefs expressing that concern. A decision “to allow a person’s immigration status to bar his recovery in tort,” read the MALDEF brief, “will leave undocumented immigrants without civil remedies, and will encourage vigilantism and lawlessness directed against the Latino community.”

In this particular case, we feel that Boerjan acted appropriately and should not be held liable for the fate of those who trespassed on private property. Nevertheless, we hope that the court is careful not to set a precedent that prevents people from suing because of their undocumented status even when they are wronged on American soil.

Undocumented immigrants are still human beings and should have the ability to seek legal redress for persecution done to them.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry appointed Jeff Boyd, his chief of staff, to a vacated position on the Texas Supreme Court on Monday.

Boyd is Perry’s 11th appointment to the Supreme Court since he took office in 2000.

“His addition to the court will continue to protect the rule of law and further the tradition of defending the freedoms that Texans so vigorously uphold,” Perry stated in a press release Monday.

Boyd will replace Dale Wainwright, who resigned in September to practice law in the private sector. The Texas Senate will confirm or reject his appointment when it reconvenes in January.

Before Perry appointed Boyd chief of staff in October 2011, he served as general counsel to the governor’s office.

In April, Perry appointed Buddy Garcia to the Texas Railroad Commission after Garcia served as a commissioner on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, a governor-appointed position. In June, Perry appointed Jeff Moseley to the Texas Transportation Commission. Perry previously appointed Mosely executive director of the Economic Development and Tourism Department for the Office of the Governor.

Boyd also served as deputy attorney general for civil litigation under Texas attorneys general Greg Abbott and John Cornyn. Cornyn is currently a U.S. Senator.

Boyd previously practiced law at Thompson & Knight, a Dallas-based law firm with international offices. James Cousar, an attorney who worked with Boyd at Thompson & Knight’s Austin office, said Boyd specialized in civil litigation involving business disputes and regulatory law involving state and federal regulation of businesses.

He said Boyd also has a consistent record of representing low-income clients while he served as president and a board member of Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas, an organization that provides free legal advice and representation to low-income citizens.

“He is an individual with a strong social conscience and a strong sense of social justice,” Cousar said.

Printed on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 as: Perry names chief of staff to Supreme Court