Texas must pay same sex couples $600K

family law

The state of Texas has been ordered to pay two same sex couples more than $600,000 to cover their legal fees and other costs.

Mark Phariss, his husband Vic Holmes, Cleopatra DeLeon and her wife Nicole Dimetman had all spent a long time fighting a legal battle against the Lone Star State’s ban on gay marriage.

Several years ago, the two couples sued Texas, arguing that the now-defunct law was unconstitutional. A district court in San Antonio agreed with them as the Judge ruled that the prohibition violated the “plaintiffs’ equal protection and due process rights”.

Although the lawyers who represented the two couples had worked pro bono, the court ordered the state to pay $585,470.30 in attorney fees and $20,202.90 to cover various other costs. However this ruling was stayed (stopped from being enforced) in anticipation of an appeal and the ban was not lifted.

The case was then sent to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over the district courts of Texas and Louisiana. While the dispute was being considered by the Fifth Circuit, the United States Supreme Court made a landmark ruling which legalised same sex marriage throughout the country. Texas then conceded the case.

Although the state had admitted defeat in the dispute itself, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton unsuccessfully challenged the financial payout. This week, a three-Judge panel in the Fifth Circuit ruled that the original court had “acted well within its broad discretion” when it ordered the payment of legal fees.

Mark Phariss said the couples were “thrilled” with the decision as it meant “our attorneys finally get compensated for all of their hard work”. Despite welcoming the decision, Phariss did say it was “a little bit sad that it was a waste of taxpayer dollars that could have gone to other things than to keep two people who love each other from getting married”.

The law firm which represented the couples have said they will use the money to fund future pro bono work.

Photo by TimothyJ via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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