Update on the Texas Gay Divorce Cases

A Texas Court of Appeal heard the case of the most recent “no divorce for you” ruling, and the details of the argument are worth reviewing. A detailed story can be found at http://www.statesman.com/news/local/court-urged-to-void-travis-county-gay-divorce-1125333.html but here are the key points. A judge in Austin granted the lesbian couple (who had married in Massachusetts previously) a divorce in an initial oral ruling, but before the Judge could sign the formal papers the Attorney General intervened. The AG argued that since Texas didn’t recognize same-sex marriage, the local court couldn’t grant a divorce that implicitly recognized the marriage. In this instance the court had not just granted the “status” divorce; he also had ruled on various property and custody matters. To his credit, the trial judge rejected the request for intervention by the AG and upheld the divorce decree.

Now, the AG has appealed, asking the appellate court to toss out the divorce judgment. In a similar case the northern Texas Court of Appeal sided with the AG and denied the couple a right to obtain a Texas divorce. That ruling is not binding on the Austin court, but it is quite likely that one or both of these cases will end up at the Texas Supreme Court.

The consequences of these decisions are quite significant. There are thousands of same-sex couples who traveled out of state to get married, and if they can’t get divorced in their home state one (or both) of them is going to have to relocate to a marriage recognition state to obtain a divorce. This is an enormous burden on couples, leaving them with the equally undesirable option of remaining married to someone they no longer live with. In the end, this problem will only be resolved when same-sex marriage is recognized in every state of the Union. But until then, there is nothing gained by denying someone who wants to exit a same-sex marriage a fully legal divorce.

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