Chuck Herring

Suzanne Bryant, left, and Sarah Goodfriend celebrate after being granted a marriage license Thursday morning at Highland Lounge.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton petitioned the state Supreme Court on Friday to declare a single marriage license issued to one same-sex couple invalid. 

Paxton asked the Supreme Court to act after Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant married Thursday, becoming the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Texas. Hours after the ceremony, the Texas Supreme Court, at Paxton’s request, issued a stay that prevented future same-sex couples in Texas from marrying.

“The rogue actions of Travis County judges do not withstand the scrutiny of law,” Paxton said in a statement Friday. “The same-sex marriage license issued [Thursday] is not valid because it conflicts with the Texas Constitution and state law — the license is therefore void ab initio.”

Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Mongolia) also worked to prevent same-sex marriage licenses from being issued Friday. The two lawmakers filed legislation Friday in the House and Senate that would make the secretary of state the only official who would be allowed to issue marriage licenses. Currently, couples can obtain marriage licenses from individual county clerks’ offices.

Under the proposed legislation, the secretary of state would maintain the right to authorize certain county clerks to continue the issuance of marriage licenses under the secretary’s supervision.

Perry said in a statement Friday that his bill will work to protect marriage as defined in the Texas Constitution: “the union of one man and one woman.”

“Yesterday, Travis County officials acted in direct conflict with the Texas Constitution,” Perry said in a statement. “SB 673 ensures rule of law is maintained and the Texas Constitution is protected.”

Chuck Herring, the couple’s attorney, said state officials’ attempts to alter government procedures for obtaining marriage licenses will not ultimately prevent same-sex marriages.

“It’s obviously punitive and retaliatory and it makes no sense to change the system of government we have in Texas, including local control and local authority,” Herring said. “We all know the U.S. Supreme Court is the court that is going to decide any remaining issues concerning the constitutionality of same-sex marriage prohibition.”

Paxton’s filing is without merit and will not effectively void the couple’s marriage, according to Herring.

“We think it is a backdoor attempt to attack the validity of a marriage that has already occurred,” Herring said. “The case is over. The marriage is over and done. Our clients are married and very happy.”

Sarah Goodfriend (left) and Suzanne Bryant celebrate their marriage at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. A public celebration centered around the couple, who obtained Texas’ first same-sex marriage license.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

The couple exchanged vows in front of their children and had an official Texas marriage license in hand — but for several hours Thursday afternoon, it was unclear whether Austin residents Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend were actually married, after all. 

Bryant and Goodfriend, who have been together for three decades, became the first same-sex couple to obtain a marriage license in Texas on Thursday morning. For now, they will remain the only same-sex couple to have done so. Thursday afternoon, the Texas Supreme Court issued a stay at the request of Attorney General Ken Paxton that prevented other same-sex marriage licenses in the state.

Watch footage from the couple's evening wedding reception:

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir granted the marriage license under the order of state district judge David Wahlberg. The Travis County Court issued the license because Goodfriend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last May. There was some confusion throughout the day about whether the license would remain valid after the Texas Supreme Court’s decision to issue the stay. 

Bryant and Goodfriend’s marriage is still valid, according to Chuck Herring, the couple’s attorney.

“The Supreme Court issued a stay order, but, in our view, it has no practical effect because we already obtained the relief,” Herring said. “We don’t want further action. The clients are married, and it’s over.”

A celebration occurred in honor of Goodfriend and Bryant's marriage at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Paxton said today’s marriage of Bryant and Goodfriend went against Texas law, making it invalid, according to a report in the Austin-American Statesman.

“The law of Texas has not changed and will not change due to the whims of any individual judge or county clerk operating on their own capacity anywhere in Texas,” Paxton said. “Activist judges don’t change Texas law, and we will continue to aggressively defend the laws of our state and will ensure that any licenses issued contrary to law are invalid.”

Herring said Paxton threatened to file a lawsuit to invalidate the marriage, but Paxton has not announced concrete plans to move forward. 

“Does he file a new lawsuit?” Herring said. “Sue a woman with ovarian cancer? What does he file? That’s the question, and he’s not answering that question. All he’s doing is making public statements that he’s unhappy and doesn’t like same-sex people getting married. That’s interesting, but he needs to come up with a legal procedure.”

Travis County Democratic Party Chair Jan Soifer opens Bryant and Goodfriend's party at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said he cannot think of anyone with the power to invalidate the couple’s marriage.

“My understanding is the marriage was already completed before the Supreme Court, so I don’t know who would have legal standing to challenge this marriage,” Doggett said. “It’s amazing the machinations people will go through to prevent the commitment of three decades from being recognized.”

Goodfriend said the battle for marriage equality is an essential Texan issue.

“In Texas, we really believe in personal responsibility and personal freedom, and the freedom to marry is the ultimate exercise of personal freedom,” Goodfriend said. “When a loving committed couple like Suzanne and I, and all the other couples — when the marriage is recognized, it only makes Texas stronger.”

Goodfriend and Bryant share a kiss in front of supporters at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff