Tue November 5, 2013
Texas Supreme Court Weighs Same-Sex Divorce Cases
Update: Two same-sex divorce cases are now in the hands of the nine Texas Supreme Court justices to decide. Today they heard oral arguments on whether Texas can grant these couples a divorce.
In 2005, a majority of Texans voted to ban gay marriage. But now, the Texas Supreme Court must decide whether litigation involving two gay couples who wed in Massachusetts – one based in Austin, the other in Dallas – can get divorced in Texas.
"The Texas Constitution defines marriage as solely the union of one man and one woman, so there are no marriages here," said James Blacklock, a lawyer with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. He says the state can't grant a divorce without recognizing the marriage.
But attorney James Scheske says his clients were legally married and annulling their marriage isn’t an option.
"The only place they can dissolve that marriage is in their state of residence. And all Texans should be treated equally," Scheske said.
A ruling in the case is expected after the new year.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a core provision of a 1996 federal law that blocks federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Original story: Two pending same-sex divorce cases are heading to the Texas Supreme Court. Today the Texas Supreme Court consolidated both cases.
One is from Travis County, where in 2010 a lesbian couple was granted a divorce, despite a challenge from Attorney General Greg Abbott. He then appealed that decision to the Texas Supreme Court.
In the other case, from Dallas County, the appeals court ruled that the state should have been allowed to deny the couple a divorce. The man who filed for divorce from another man appealed that decision to the Texas Supreme Court.
Since each of those cases was decided, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion invalidating a core provision of a 1996 federal law that blocks federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
"Do Texas trial courts have jurisdiction to hear divorce cases in same-sex marriages even if those marriages are valid in other states? I think that’s what the over-riding question is?" said attorney Brian Thompson, a board member with Equality Texas, a group that advocates for LGBT rights.
The combined oral arguments on these consolidated cases are scheduled for Nov. 5.