AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge declared a same-sex marriage ban in deeply conservative Texas unconstitutional on Wednesday but will allow the nation's second-most populous state to enforce the law pending an appeal that will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a long-standing law. His ruling is the latest in a tangled web of lawsuits across the country expected to end up in the Supreme Court next year.
Garcia said the couples are likely to win their case and the ban should be lifted, but said he would not enforce his ruling pending one by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which already is hearing two other states' cases. He also will give Texas time to appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Garcia, appointed by President Bill Clinton, is the first judge in the conservative 5th Circuit to reach such a decision. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who also is the leading Republican candidate to succeed Gov. Rick Perry, promised to appeal.
The ruling is the latest in a series of victories for gay rights activists after similar decisions in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia. The U.S. Supreme Court put the Utah ruling on hold until the 10th Circuit can consider an appeal, and Garcia said he would respect that order as well.