Mark Phariss said he’s not a person who cries, but when his attorney sent him a text message on Wednesday that said, “We won,” he said he was in tears.

Phariss and his partner of 17 years, Vic Holmes, were in San Antonio when Judge Orlando Garcia’s decision to strike down the Texas marriage ban was announced.

They filed the lawsuit in October after applying for a marriage license in San Antonio that was denied them.

After an Austin couple who wanted their out-of-state marriage recognized in Texas joined the suit, the case progressed rapidly.

In December, Garcia set a Feb. 12 trial date. Two weeks after hearing testimony on that day, he issued his ruling.

“I’m stunned, pleased. The amount of emotion — it’s beyond belief,” Holmes said.

Phariss said he and Holmes talked about going to another state to get married but decided against it.

“Our belief is we’re Texans,” he said. “By God, that’s where we’re going to get married.”

They weren’t particularly judge-shopping when they filed their suit in San Antonio, Phariss said. They met in San Antonio and decided that’s where they wanted to get married.

He doesn’t think the outcome would have been any different had they filed their lawsuit anywhere else. Since the Windsor decision last June declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, he said, “all federal judges have been in favor of equality. Whoever heard the case would have made the same conclusion.”
Holmes said the lawsuit was important because of all “the little things that make you less than.” He was referring to all the times he and Phariss have been reminded their relationship isn’t recognized.

He said the case was heard and the decision announced, “surprisingly quick,” but that the judge had latitude in scheduling.

“He thought it needed to be heard rapidly,” Holmes said.

In comparison, the Oklahoma decision declaring that state’s marriage ban unconstitutional had been languishing in the courts for more than 10 years.

The couple was flying back to Dallas on Wednesday night. They’re expecting Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to file an appeal, but Phariss said he’s optimistic about the outcome in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. If that court doesn’t find in their favor, however, he expects the U.S. Supreme Court to agree with Garcia’s decision.

So what’s next for the couple after the landmark decision?

“Back to work,” Holmes said.

— David Taffet

Related stories:

Texas ban on same-sex marriage ruled unconstitutional

That was the day I withdrew

Marriage equality is fixin’ to come to Texas

It’s nice hear someone say our marriage is valid


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 28, 2014.