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Texas high court may wait for U.S. Supreme Court on gay divorce

Although the nation's courts are intended to address the legal needs of all citizens, even today, many cases end up in limbo. Sometimes decisions get hung up due to conflicting laws between states, or between state and federal laws. Same-sex marriage is one of these issues. Some states have legalized the union between two men or two women, while other states, such as Texas, have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

For gay and lesbian couples who want to marry legally, it can be tough to decide how to proceed. If they live in a state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage they can travel to one that does and marry there. But the marriage won't be recognized where they live, and if they divorce, they may not be able to legally split up. This discrepancy also has implications for other aspects of divorce, such as child support, child custody and alimony.

One Texas couple has been dealing with this problem for four years. Back in January 2009, a gay man who married his partner in Massachusetts three years earlier filed a petition for divorce in Dallas County court. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott challenged the petition on the grounds that since gay marriage isn't valid in the state, the state couldn't grant them a divorce. A state district judge disagreed in September 2009, ruling that the amendment banning gay marriage was unconstitutional.

As so often happens, the court case turned political. A 5th District Court of Appeals panel -- consisting entirely of Republicans -- overturned the Democratic state district judge's decision, leading the man who filed for divorce to take it to the Texas Supreme Court in March 2011. The high court has yet to hear the case, but it's asked for briefs and has taken on yet another same-sex divorce case as well.

Unfortunately for these couples who want to end their relationship just as heterosexual married couples are able to do, the wait could go on even longer. An attorney representing both couples says the Texas high court's decision may not come until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on two unrelated same-sex divorce cases.

It's become clear that we need a nationwide standard for the issue of same-sex marriage, but as long as it continues to act as a political divider, many gay and lesbian couples will have to continue waiting -- unhappily married or not.

Source: DallasVoice.com, "4 years later, divorce-seeking gay Dallas couple J.B. and H.B. remain in 'limbo'," Jan. 16, 2013

  • Our firm is well-equipped to handle the diverse needs of Texas residents. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Dallas divorce page.

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