POLITICS

Texas Attorney General: Marriage License For Same-Sex Couple Could Lead To 'Legal Chaos'

02/20/2015 03:26 pm ET | Updated Apr 22, 2015
Brian Phillpotts via Getty Images

(Adds statement from lawyer for the couple)

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas, Feb 20 (Reuters) - The Texas attorney general asked the state's Supreme Court on Friday to revoke a marriage license issued a day earlier to two women, arguing the move violated a decade-old state ban against gay marriage and could cause legal chaos.

Travis County, where the capital Austin is located, issued a marriage license to Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, who have been together for about 30 years and have two daughters. It was the first license issued to a same-sex couple in Texas since the ban was put in place.

A county judge made a one-time exception to allow the license to be issued, saying Goodfriend was in poor health due to ovarian cancer and denying the couple the license violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican who has pledged to fight for the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman, said in a press release, "the rogue actions of Travis County judges do not withstand the scrutiny of law." His office filed the petition with the Texas Supreme Court to have the license declared void.

"Relief from this Court is necessary to avoid the legal chaos that would follow if the trial court's ruling is mistakenly interpreted as authorization for the creation or recognition of same-sex marriages in Travis County or throughout the State," the petition said.

A U.S. district judge in Texas last year ruled the state's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional because it denied same-sex couples equal protection under the law. Enforcement of the decision is on hold pending an appeal.

Supporters of the couple have argued the license is valid and Paxton is standing on the wrong side of history by trying to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

Chuck Herring, a lawyer for the couple, said the Paxton filing is inappropriate and out of step with the current situation in the country, where same-sex marriage is permitted in most states.

"If he wants to sue a woman who has ovarian cancer to try to take away her marriage license, so be it. His continuing meanness and lack of compassion are remarkable," Herring said. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Eric Beech)

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