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Reuters, Published February 26 2014

Judge strikes down Texas gay marriage ban as unconstitutional

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The Texas state ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional on Wednesday by a U.S. federal judge, who declared a stay on the decision, meaning that the ban stays in effect.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia said the law denies the two couples who brought the suit constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

"These Texas laws deny Plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex," Garcia wrote.

The matter has been deferred to Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the judge said.

The suit brought on behalf of the couples was aimed at winning recognition for same-sex marriage in the deep South, where every state has a constitutional amendment or law that establishes legal marriage as only being between one man and one woman.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican front-runner in the gubernatorial race this year and a defendant in the suit, has argued the state has the right to establish its own marriage policies. Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in 2005.