A federal appeals court ruled Monday that a judge in Texas cannot order the state to allow him to write a new marriage license for same-sex couples.
The ruling was a blow to the state’s marriage license process and a blow for the thousands of same-gender couples who had requested a license for the same-day ceremonies they planned for the upcoming fall session.
The court ruled that the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the agency that administers the state marriage license, had the power to deny a license.
The decision was the first time in U.S. history a federal court has allowed the Attorney General to deny licenses to same- or opposite-sex married couples, according to The Associated Press.
It was a significant victory for gay rights advocates, who have pushed the state for years to allow same- and opposite-gender marriages.
But it could have implications for other states, including Mississippi, where the Attorney the office oversees is white and has not challenged the Texas ruling.
The Texas decision comes at a time when marriage equality is gaining momentum in the U.T. and around the country.
A poll released this week showed that support for same sex marriage has grown in several states, from Kentucky to California, and from Alaska to Montana.
In Tennessee, the governor has said he is not in favor of the state issuing licenses for same or opposite sex couples.
“The State of Tennessee has not acted to discriminate against any married same- gender couples in issuing marriage licenses,” the state said in a statement.
“It is important to note that Tennessee’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to married same or opposing-sex persons violates both Tennessee and federal law.
This decision does not alter that fundamental right to marriage, and we are pleased to provide the legal and technical assistance the UT will need to implement its new marriage policy.”
In his ruling, Judge Robert Jones of the U-T’s appeals court wrote that the state had “no statutory power to refuse to issue the licenses and that the Attorney-General did not have the authority to deny such licenses to any other persons.”
He noted that the law requires the state Attorney General “to issue licenses to all qualified persons and that a marriage license is a ‘license’ that is ‘valid for all purposes.'”
The U-P’s lawsuit was brought by a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals who were seeking a marriage certificate for the coming fall session in Tennessee.
In a statement, the attorneys for the plaintiffs called the ruling a “major victory” for the UTA’s ability to issue licenses for both same-date and opposite gender weddings.
“This is a major victory for the legal rights of our LGBTQ friends and allies who have sought to get married for the past decade,” said the statement from the LGBT advocacy group The Rutherford Institute.
“But it is also a major defeat for the Attorney Gen. who is attempting to rewrite the law to allow the state legislature to deny marriage licenses solely on the basis of sexual orientation.”