The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the state of Texas to pay more than $600,000 in attorneys’ fees and other costs to the attorneys of Texas marriage equality plaintiffs Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, and Cleo De Leon and Nicole Dimetman. The court awarded $585,470.30 in fees and $20,202.90 in other costs to the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, which has pledged to use the funds for future pro bono work, according to Dallas Morning News.
Phariss and Holmes and De Leon and Dimetman filed suit in November 2013 in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Texas’ constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, which had been passed by voters in 2005. Judge Orlando Garcia issued his ruling striking down the marriage equality ban on Feb. 26, 2014 — a ruling Texas officials quickly appealed to the 5th Circuit Court. The 5th Circuit held a hearing in January 2015, but did not issue a ruling before the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26, 2015 ruling declaring all anti-marriage equality laws unconstitutional.
Judge Garcia’s ruling came during the reign of Rick Perry as Texas governor and Greg Abbott as Texas attorney general. Abbott then replaced Perry as governor, and Ken Paxton replaced Abbott as AG, but Paxton has been most diligent in his attempts to continue to deny marriage equality in Texas. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling, Paxton claimed that county clerks could refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on “religious objections.” That didn’t work, but Paxton’s cronies in the state Legislature are hard at work right now trying to pass bills that would limit marriage equality and boost the right to “religious refusals.”
Marc Rylander, a spokesman for Paxton, said the AG is “disappointed in the ruling” and is still considering next steps. But as Phariss told the Morning News, “It’s kind of 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.”
Let’s hope Paxton — who, by the way, faces trial in September on criminal charges of securities fraud — will finally sit down and shut up and not cost Texas taxpayers any more money in his own private right-wing crusade.