Sarah Goodfriend (second from left) and Suzanne Bryant (center) hold up their Texas marriage license on Thursday, February 19, 2015.
At the close of their small, informal wedding ceremony outside the Travis County Clerk’s Office, in Austin, Suzanne Bryant took her new bride, Sarah Goodfriend, by the arm and rushed her inside the building so the two could make their marriage official with the state, “before they make it illegal.”
By 9:45 a.m., the newlyweds were posing for photographs with their marriage license—the first and only same-sex marriage license issued in Texas—in front of a small gaggle of news reporters gathered in the clerk’s office. Their adopted teenage daughters, Dawn and Ting, stood alongside them, as did Travis County clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, who issued the license. It had been a hectic but significant morning for the family. But as the day progressed, state attorney general Ken Paxton issued a flurry of statements and court filings seeking to undo the historic marriage. As of the end of day Friday, it’s unclear whether or not the courts will consider Bryant and Goodfriend’s marriage license to be valid. Here’s a timeline to help clarify the events of the past two days.
Thursday, 8:30 a.m. Goodfriend and Bryant, who have been in a relationship for almost 31 years, hear from their attorney, Chuck Herring, that they can be married that morning. Herring petitioned district judge David Wahlberg for a temporary restraining order that would allow the couple to be married and would waive the 72-hour waiting period required between obtaining a marriage license and performing a ceremony in the state of Texas.
Herring was able to file this petition because of extenuating medical circumstances; Goodfriend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last May. She recently had her final chemotherapy treatment, but in a press conference held later in the day, she motioned to her short hair and said, “I think all of us wonder if the cancer grows back along with our hair growing back.”
9:00 a.m. Wahlberg files for a temporary restraining order (TRO) with Travis County district clerk Velva Price. The order, which identifies Travis County clerk Dana DeBeauvoir as the defendant, says “that unless the Court immediately issues a Temporary Restraining Order, the unconstitutional denial of a marriage license to the Plaintiffs will cause immediate and irreparable damage to Plaintiffs (Bryant and Goodfriend), based solely on their status as a same-sex couple.”
9:25 a.m. The TRO arrives at the Travis County Clerk’s Office, in North Austin. Bryant and Goodfriend hold their small ceremony, which was officiated by Rabbi Kerry Baker. They share their first kiss as a married couple and rush back inside to register their marriage.
9:45 a.m. Bryant and Goodfriend are officially married and pose for pictures with their marriage license in their hands, which Bryant later said felt like the most important piece of paper she’d ever held. Their two daughters and DeBeauvoir, who has long supported same-sex marriage, stood with them as they smiled and occasionally kissed.
12:00 p.m. A press conference is held in a small but crowded room at the law office of Jan Soifer, who also serves as the chair of the Travis County Democratic Party. As the couple sits down, Bryant looks around and says, “Is this happening? This is really happening.” The couple hold hands and talk about how grateful and happy they are to have been allowed to be married that morning. Goodfriend describes the day as “bittersweet,” citing the thousands of other same-sex Texan couples who aren’t yet able to be married.
When asked if they are worried that the attorney general is going to step in and try to nullify their marriage, Bryant says, “We can’t control what the AG’s office wants to do, and if they want to come in and try and undo this, they will. But we have a valid marriage license, and I don’t think they can.”
1:00 p.m. Attorney General Ken Paxton issues a statement and says he is going to seek a stay of the TRO that allowed Bryant and Goodfriend to marry. He says he will also seek stays from the Texas Supreme Court.
AG Paxton says he will seek to void the marriage license “issued due to the erroneous judicial order.”
— Chuck Lindell (@chucklindell) February 19, 2015
2:00 p.m. Paxton says he seeks to void the marriage license, saying it was “issued due to erroneous judicial error” at the district court level. In a statement, Paxton says, “The same-sex marriage license issued by the Travis County Clerk is void, just as any license issued in violation of state law would be.” As reported by the Austin American-Statesman’s Chuck Lindell, Herring says that if Paxton wants to void the marriage, he will have to file a suit that “directly attacks Sarah Goodfriend, Suzanne Bryant and their marriage.”
3:00 p.m. The Texas Supreme Court issues a stay against the “two trial court rulings that Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages violates constitutional protections to equal protection and due process of law,” or the rulings that allowed Bryant and Goodfriend to be married that morning. But Herring argues that even with the stay from the court, the marriage is still valid.
Friday, 12:00 p.m. Paxton files a petition requesting a writ of mandamus from the Texas Supreme Court. In a statement accompanying his petition, Paxton argues that the marriage was “void ab initio,” or that it was invalid from the very start.
The petition lists several reasons why the Supreme Court should grant “mandamus relief” to the 167th Judicial District Court, Wahlberg’s court. Among those reasons, Paxton says the trial court abused discretion in multiple ways by not notifying the attorney general’s office before first issuing a TRO that took a state law into question.
Paxton avoided going through the court of appeals, which would be the normal course of action, and instead approached the high court directly. As he writes in the petition, he sees court intervention to void or relieve Bryant and Goodfriend’s marriage as something that needs to happen immediately, so as to avoid “continued serious, imminent harm” around the state.
As of end of day Friday, the Supreme Court had not yet granted mandamus relief to the district court, and the question of whether Texas had married its first same-sex couple remained up in the air.
(Photo courtesy of Paula Spears.)