Earlier this fall, the Fifth District Court of Appeals, in Dallas, Texas, was called upon to decide a very interesting issue in the case of In the Matter of the Marriage of J.B. and H.B. Specifically, the court examined whether two men who were legally married in a state that expressly recognizes same-sex marriage (Massachusetts) could secure a divorce in a state that expressly bans same-sex marriage (Texas).
(One note of background information: Texas voters approved amendments to the state Constitution and the Texas Family Code banning both civil unions and same-sex marriages in 2005.)
In 2006, H.B. and J.B. were legally married in Massachusetts. The couple later moved to Texas, where J.B. ultimately sought to divorce H.B. in January 2008, claiming “discord or conflict of personalities.”
In October of that same year, a district court judge issued a two-fold ruling:
- The Texas prohibitions against same-sex marriages/civil unions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment
- H.B. and J.B. were therefore legally permitted to secure a dissolution of marriage under Texas law
Attorney General Greg Abbott unsuccessfully attempted to intervene during the proceedings – arguing that the district court could not legally dissolve the same-sex marriage at issue since the state of Texas did not recognize such marriages.
The district court rejected the attempted intervention and claimed that it was in fact able to decide a divorce “filed by persons legally married in another jurisdiction.”
The Fifth District Court of Appeals, however, rejected the ruling of the district court and ordered it to dismiss the case.
Specifically, the appellate court found:
- The district court erred in holding that the Texas prohibitions against same-sex marriages/civil unions violated the Equal Protection Clause
- The district court erred in refusing to let Attorney General Abbott intervene
- The district courts of Texas do not have subject matter jurisdiction over same-sex marriage/divorce cases
J.B. currently has the option of pursuing a divorce in Massachusetts, or appealing to the Supreme Court of Texas.
However, it sounds as if the latter option may be pursued.
“Eventually all married couples in the state of Texas will have equal access to divorce. Unfortunately, this decision denies that to one segment of society, same-sex couples … We think the holding is not constitutional as we argued to the court, and we look forward to further appeal,” said J.B.’s attorney.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.
Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …
Dallas Judge’s Ruling Saying Gay Couple Could Divorce in Texas Rejected on Appeal (The Dallas Morning News)
Recent Opinions (Fifth District Court of Appeals -Dallas, Texas)