Sarah Goodfriend

Suzanne Bryant (left) and Sarah Goodfriend hold up their marriage license after a press conference on Thursday afternoon. They became the first same-sex couple to marry in Texas on Thursday morning.
Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Supreme Court’s stay on the state’s same-sex marriage ban may remain in effect until the expected Supreme Court ruling this summer, according to Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information at the Texas Supreme Court.

“Somebody is going to rule on this, and it’s the U.S. Supreme Court, definitively, in three months,” McCarthy said. “So what the court has done is say, ‘Stop. Nobody move.’”

On Thursday, Travis County Judge David Wahlberg issued a single marriage license to Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend. The two were granted the license and married, making them the first same-sex couple to marry in Texas.

The Texas Supreme Court issued a stay Thursday in response to a request by Attorney General Ken Paxton, halting all further same-sex marriages in the state. The stay did not include an end date, but it will presumably end with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling this summer. 

Courts issuing a stay are not required to provide an end date, according UT law professor F. Scott McCown.

“[The stay] would just be [over] when the court made its decision,” McCown said. 

Paxton submitted a petition Friday to the Texas Supreme Court asking that the court overturn Wahlberg’s ruling, potentially voiding Bryant and Goodfriend’s marriage. 

The couple’s attorney, Chuck Herring, said in a previous interview that Paxton’s petition will not successfully end the marriage since the marriage has already occurred.

“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,” Herring said.

While McCarthy does not know if the petition can revoke the marriage, he said he thinks Paxton’s filing not be successful. 

“I believe the Attorney General believes this petition would invalidate that marriage license,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know if his mandamus petition really goes that far.” 

There are no immediate legal ramifications with Paxton’s opposition to Bryant and Goodfriend’s marriage, McCarthy said. 

“Down the long term, maybe,” McCarthy said. “Let’s say one dies, and the other comes in and says, ‘I am the person who inherits from my spouse,’ and someone else jumps in and says this is not a valid marriage.”

Rogelio Meza, Queer Student Alliance co-director and microbiology junior, said he agrees with McCarthy’s assessment. He said he thinks Texas’ Supreme Court will not legalize same-sex marriage independently. He thinks the decision to permit same-sex marriage will depend on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this summer. 

“I’m very disappointed, yet, not surprised at Texas trying to stop same-sex marriage here in the state,” Meza said. “A couple already got married. Nothing happened. The world didn’t explode. I feel Texas is trying to hold on to that conservative ideal.” 

Marisa Kent, QSA co-director and marketing junior, said she was also not surprised by the ruling.

“It was a little frustrating because the ruling [allowing the marriage] was made for a specific reason, and for them to change the decision and say nothing is going to change until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision is frustrating,” Kent said. “It’s something that I knew the Texas government would do without any afterthought.”

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

Suzanne Bryant (left) and Sarah Goodfriend hold up their marriage license after a press conference on Thursday afternoon. They became the first same-sex couple to marry in Texas on Thursday morning.
Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant were married Thursday morning in Austin. They are the first same-sex couple to get married in the state of Texas. They were married as a result of a court order issued by State District Judge David Wahlberg in reaction to the news of Goodfriend’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer. But now that the Texas Supreme Court has stayed all future such marriages, much remains in doubt. Still, we hope that this is just the first of many same-sex marriages in Texas.

The tide is turning as more and more states are lifting bans on same-sex marriage, either by popular initative or by court order. Gay marriage is currently legal in 37 states. In 2012, only eight states allowed marriage between same-sex partners. Although the  marriage was performed under special circumstances and the county clerk’s office has no intention of issuing more same-sex marriage licenses except under court order, the fact remains that a gay couple were legally married in a red state where bans on “sodomy” are still in place in the state penal code. We hope progress in the courts will not make this a one-time occurrence. 

Predictably, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has requested a reaffirmation of the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages from the Texas Supreme Court in response to a probate judge ruling the ban on such marriages unconstitutional. In addition to the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday, Paxton hopes to reverse progress by having Goodfriend and Bryant’s marriage voided, a move that had not been successful as of our Thursday deadline. But while Paxton’s political pandering, and the Supreme Court’s acquiescence, may play well with the religious right, he clearly hasn’t considered the concerns of the morally right. 

Goodfriend and Bryant’s unbridled joy after their marriage is evident in the pictures and video released from the event. These two women love each other, have raised two daughters and are now fighting cancer together. Their passion and dedication reflect an ideal of marriage that any couple, gay or straight, would strive for. The opposition needs to move beyond the shallow consideration of gender and ask itself what it thinks marriage is truly about. This couple fits the bill. 

Paxton and those opposing this long overdue marriage are operating on the basis of their hidebound ideals. Their idea of small government ironically includes managing the personal lives of their constituents based on personal beliefs and revulsions. It is time to catch up with the rest of the nation and allow these couples to marry because they deserve the benefits that come with marriage, especially in situations like Goodfriend and Bryant’s. Let them remain married and make it so others can do the same.

Suzanne Bryant (left) and Sarah Goodfriend hold up their marriage license after a press conference on Thursday afternoon. They became the first same-sex couple to marry in Texas on Thursday morning.
Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

Updated (5:14 p.m.): According to Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, the marriage of Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend is valid despite the Texas Supreme Court issuing a stay order for the trial court ruling.


"The Texas Supreme Court order on the Motion for Temporary Relief has stayed further proceedings in the trial court, and is not directed at the County Clerk," DeBeauvoir said. "I have every reason to believe that the actions I took this morning were legally correct based on the trial court's order and that the license my office issued was then and now valid. There is no further action for me to take at this time."


Updated (4:10 p.m.): The Texas Supreme Court granted Paxton’s request for a stay in the trial court rulings regarding the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.

“The Texas Supreme Court has granted a stay of two trial court rulings that Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages violates constitutional protections to equal protection and due process of law,” Osler McCarthy, staff attorney and public information contact for Texas Supreme Court, said in a statement. “Motions to stay orders by two Travis County judges, one in a probate case and the other a temporary-restraining order granting a same-sex couple a marriage license, were sought by the Texas Attorney General’s Office.”

Since Goodfriend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last May, the Travis County Court decided her condition warranted the licensing. Of the two daughters, Goodfriend adopted one, and Bryant adopted the other. If Goodfriend were to die without being legally married to Bryant, Bryant's adopted daughter would not receive certain provisions. For this reason, the court decided to bypass the 72-hour stay on the Tuesday decision and issue the license immediately.

Bryant and Goodfriend attended a press conference to discuss their marriage Thursday.

“This is bittersweet for us because there are many other Texans who would like to be able to have their loving, committed relationship recognized,” Goodfriend said.

When Bryant and Goodfriend asked whether they thought the attorney general would step in and nullify their marriage, Bryant said they are not concerned.

“We can’t control what the AG office wants to do,” Bryant said. “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.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas congratulated Bryant and Goodfriend following the announcement that the couple were the first same-sex couple to marry legally in Texas.

“Now, it’s time for other loving couples across our state to have the same chance to celebrate,” Anna Núñez, communications coordinator for ACLU of Texas, said in an email. “We call upon Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton to stop wasting taxpayer money to defend Texas’ unconstitutional marriage ban. Let the people marry!”

Updated (2:30 p.m.): Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has requested that the state's Supreme Court block a ruling that allowed an Austin same-sex couple to marry.

Paxton said in a statement Thursday the ruling was not in line with the Texas Constitution.

"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."

Updated (10:12 a.m.): Two days after Travis County Judge Guy Herman ruled Tuesday that Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, two Austin women, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, were legally married outside the Travis County Clerk's Office early Thursday morning. The two women are the first same-sex couple to get married in the state of Texas. 

State district judge David Wahlberg ordered Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir to grant the marriage license after a county judge ruled that the state ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional earlier this week.

Same-sex marriage licenses are still not widely available in Travis County. The clerk's office will only grant additional marriage licenses to same-sex couples if those licenses are court-ordered, office representatives said.

Rabbi Kerry Baker, an Austin-based rabbi who has known Goodfriend and Bryant for more than two decades, performed the marriage ceremony. Baker said he was aware of the historic nature of the marriage.

“Of course it’s an historic moment, and that’s always remarkable when you can be involved in history as it’s being made, but frankly, my relationship with Sarah and Suzanne is not about two people who are making history,” Baker said. “They’re my friends. They’re my fellow congregants. That’s what comes first, as a rabbi – not the history, but the impact on people’s lives.”

Baker, who provides spiritual counseling through his website “Everybody Needs a Rabbi,” said the couple contacted him Wednesday night about the possibility of getting married.

“For at least eight or so years, Sarah and Suzanne have actively been trying to get permission from the state to have an actual marriage ceremony and receive a license,” Baker said. “I got a call from them last night saying that today might be the day, so I was ready.”

Paxton said his office asked the state Supreme Court to stay Herman's ruling and ultimately overturn it.

“Texas law is clear on the definition of marriage, and I will fight to protect this sacred institution and uphold the will of Texans," Paxton said in a statement Wednesday. "The probate judge’s misguided ruling does not change Texas law or allow the issuance of a marriage license to anyone other than one man and one woman.”

Baker, who also served as Texas Hillel director from 1987 to 1997, said he wasn’t concerned about Paxton’s definition of marriage as a sacred institution.

“The attorney general, with all due respect, doesn’t know much about religion,” Baker said. “I don’t pay much attention to him on that score. And frankly, from an American point of view, I support the equal protection clause of the constitution."

Goodfriend and Bryant's two daughters, Ting, 13, and Dawn, 18, joined them at the ceremony. 

Original story: Travis County Judge Guy Herman ruled Tuesday that Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, but the county did not immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Herman issued his ruling as part of a case in which Austin resident Sonemaly Phrasavath pushed the Travis County Probate Court to recognize her eight-year partnership with Stella Powell as a common-law marriage. Powell died last summer before her will was validated, leading to a legal dispute between Phrasavath and two of Powell’s siblings.

Although Travis County Court clerk Dana DeBeauvoir commended Herman for his decision, she has no immediate plans to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to a statement the County Clerk’s office released Wednesday.

“In his order, Judge Herman did not instruct the County Clerk to begin to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples,” the statement said. “The Travis County Attorney’s office is examining the order as well as the status of the current federal litigation related to marriage equality at the Fifth Circuit and in the Supreme Court.”

The ruling came Wednesday, after an hour-long hearing in the Travis County Courthouse in which Phrasavath argued against the prohibition on same-sex marriage.

Brian Thompson, Phrasavath’s attorney, said he interpreted the ruling to mean same-sex marriage is now legal in Travis County.

“I don’t see why the county clerk doesn’t rely on [the ruling] to start issuing marriage licenses,” Thompson said. “Every single day that goes by that we don’t have marriage equality in the state of Texas is an opportunity lost.”

Herman’s ruling allows DeBeauvoir to immediately issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to Thompson. 

LGBT advocacy group Equality Texas issued a statement Wednesday urging DeBeauvoir to begin issuing licenses immediately.

“Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir previously stated she would be happy to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples once the law allows for it,” said Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas. “The law in Travis County now allows for the freedom to marry. Equality Texas calls upon the county clerk to stand with us — on the right side of history.”