Two same sex couples in Texas who fought to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage were awarded more than $600,000 , a federal appeals court decided this week.
Mark Phariss and husband Vic Holmes and Cleopatra DeLeon and wife Nicole Dimetman waged a years-long legal battle to do away with Texas’ anti-gay-marriage laws. On Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals awarded their attorneys $585,470.30 in fees and $20,202.90 in other costs.
“We’re thrilled,” said Phariss, who married Holmes in Frisco just months after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal nationwide. “It means that our attorneys finally get compensated for all of their hard work. 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,” Phariss added
Since the Office of the Texas State Attorney General led the charge against their effort the award payment will come out of state coffers. Spokesman Marc Rylander said the Office of Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton was “disappointed in the ruling” and considering next steps.
After the United States Supreme Court brought marriage equality to America in Obergefell v. Hodges, Attorney General Paxton issued a formal opinion of dubious accuracy encouraging anti-gay clerks to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Paxton also noted that “numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs” if any gay couples sued to vindicate their rights. And in a Facebook post, Paxton criticized Obergefell as “a dilution of marriage” and a “lawless” ruling.
The attorney fees will go to the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, which has pledged to use the funds for future pro bono work.