(CNN) — Texas on Wednesday became the latest state in which a federal judge struck down a ban on same-sex marriage, setting the stage for gay and lesbian couples to wed in one of the nation’s most conservative states.
The ruling, by San Antonio-based Judge Orlando Garcia, will not take affect immediately: It stays enforcement of his decision pending appeal, meaning same-sex couples in Texas for the time being cannot get married.
Still, the judgment — because of what it says, where it happened and how it follows similar rulings in other states — carries special significance.
“We look forward to the day in Texas when everyone can marry who they love,” said state Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “This is a historic day for the LGBT community and the state of Texas.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott — a member of the Republican Party, which has been more likely to back gay marriage bans — said his office would appeal the ruling.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that sates have the authority to define and regulate marriage,” said Abbott, who is running for governor. “The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman.”
Garcia, in his decision issued Wednesday, said the ban had no “rational relation to a legitimate government purpose.”
“One of the court’s main responsibilities is to ensure that individuals are treated equally under the law,” said Garcia. “Equal treatment of all individuals under the law is not merely an aspiration it is a constitutional mandate.”
“Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from passing legislation born out of animosity against homosexuals, has extended constitutional protection to the moral and sexual choices of homosexuals, and prohibits the federal government from treating state-sanctioned opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages differently,” he said.
Two same-sex couples filed the original lawsuit: Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman of Austin; and Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes of Plano.
State officials are expected to now take their case to a federal appeals court in New Orleans.
Garcia’s decision follows similar conclusions in recent weeks by federal courts in Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia.
The renewed legal, political, and social momentum on the issue comes eight months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a federal Defense of Marriage Act that did not recognize for federal purposes legally married same-sex couples. Seventeen states now allow such legal unions.
The Texas case is De Leon v. Perry (5:13-cv-982).