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Texas On The Hook for $600,000 After Conceding Same-Sex Marriage Case

A federal appeals court this week ordered the state to pay more than $600,000 in legal fees to two same-sex marriage couples who sued Texas over its now-defunct same-sex marriage ban.

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Couples Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman and Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage at an LBJ Library news conference on June 26, 2015.
Couples Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman and Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage at an LBJ Library news conference on June 26, 2015. Photo credit: Bob Daemmrich / Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Texas is on the hook for more than $600,000 in fees associated with its unsuccessful fight to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Affirming a lower court ruling on the fees, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals this week shot down Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s challenge to the award amount granted to two same-sex couples who had sued the state.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit ruled that the district court “acted will within its broad discretion” in awarding those legal fees.

The fees stem from a lawsuit filed years ago by Cleopatra DeLeon and her wife, Nicole Dimetman, and Mark Phariss and his husband, Victor Holmes, who challenged the constitutionality of the state’s now-defunct same-sex marriage ban.

The couples were successful at the district court level, where a San Antonio federal judge ruled the state’s ban was unconstitutional because it “violates plaintiffs’ equal protection and due process rights.”

Anticipating an appeal, that ruling was stayed and the the ban was left in place. The lawsuit eventually made its way to the 5th Circuit, where a three-judge panel in early 2015 signaled significant doubt about the constitutionality of Texas’ ban.

But the state conceded the case that summer after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 ruled that same-sex marriage is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Alexa Ura covers demographics, voting rights and politics for The Texas Tribune, with a focus on the state's growing Hispanic population. She previously covered health care for the Tribune, where she started as in intern. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013 with a journalism degree.

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september 2020

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