Texas Supreme Court hears oral arguments over same-sex divorce

In Texas LGBT couples can seek legal rights through domestic partnership, but so far marriage, which offers a full range of rights and benefits, remains out of reach for gay and lesbian partners throughout Texas. Divorce, however, could be another story.

Texans have undoubtedly seen headlines about the Texas Supreme Court hearing two separate cases brought by two same-sex couples who are seeking divorce. Both couples were initially wed in Massachusetts, and now they want divorces in Texas.

The Texas law that bans gay marriage, however, says that the state cannot act in any way that would recognize same-sex marriage. A lawyer for the attorney general, who opposes granting the divorces, said that the couples could ask a judge to have the marriages voided, but that an outright divorce would violate state law.

An attorney for one of the couples countered that voiding the marriages would essentially say to other states, such as Massachusetts, that the same-sex marriages in those states never legally happened when clearly they did. He went on to say that there is a constitutional issue if the same-sex marriage ban in Texas is used to deny the right to divorce. Divorce is separate from marriage, he argued.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that a law can be unconstitutional if it results in the marriages of LGBT couples being given a second-class status.

The state Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on the cases in the next few months, and gay and lesbian partners throughout Texas will undoubtedly want to keep an eye on the results.

Regardless of the state court’s ruling, domestic partners who want to dissolve their partnerships still have that option.

Source: statesman.com, “Texas court takes on same-sex divorce,” Chuck Lindell, Nov. 5, 2013