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Gay marriage gets day in San Antonio court

By: Guillermo Contreras, San Antonio-Express News

SAN ANTONIO Amid tightened security at San Antonio's federal courthouse, a judge today will hear a request to bar the state from enforcing its ban on same-sex marriage.

The request for a preliminary injunction by two gay couples who sued the state of Texas in October is seen as a giant step towards marriage equality.

Plaintiffs Nicole Dimetman, her spouse Cleo DeLeon and Vic Holmes and his life partner, Mark Phariss, whom were featured in a story this weekend in the San Antonio Express-News, allege the 2005 ban is unconstitutional because it treats the LGBT community unequally.

This is one of the most important things we've ever done, said Dimetman, who married DeLeon in 2009 in Massachusetts. We look forward to our day in court.

Their suit rides a wave of change in the legal and social landscape.

It is among more than 40 cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in more than 20 states, including some where federal courts have ruled that similar bans are unconstitutional. Two other suits are pending in federal courts in Texas.

The hearing before U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia could last at least half a day.

Federal marshals have geared up in case there are clashes between supporters of gay rights and opponents, courthouse sources said.

To get a preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs have to convince Garcia that they are likely to win when the full lawsuit is litigated later and show that they are being harmed right now.

In court filings defending the ban, the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott argues that the couples can do neither.

Assistant Texas Solicitor General Michael Murphy asked the judge to deny the injunction request because it won't make it past legal hurdles.

The right to marry has never included the right to same-sex marriage, Murphy argued. Plaintiffs' constitutional claims are not likely to succeed on the merits, as they are foreclosed by direct, binding Supreme Court precedent and by application of equal-protection and due-process standards.

Additionally, Murphy argued that the couples seem to want to change state law - an amendment in 2005 approved by 76 percent of Texas voters that defines marriage between a man and woman.

We're not seeking to rewrite any Texas law, said one of the couples' lawyers, Neel Lane. We're seeking to enforce the Constitution that protects everyone.

 The judge is expected to take today's arguments under advisement, review them and rule later.



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