By John Clark
The Texas Supreme Court has started to hear cases that could determine the fate of same-sex couples looking to get a divorce in the Lone Star State, according to a report from the Dallas Morning News.
Sources say the complication arises from the state’s ban on gay marriage, which remains in effect in Texas and states that marriage can only be between one man and one woman.
Several gay couples, however, have married in other states, and then moved to Texas. So the issue is whether these couples will be able to obtain a divorce in their adopted state.
And the issue was confused in recent years after two appellate courts reached contradictory conclusions, sending the complicated issue to the state’s highest court for resolution this week.
According to reports, in 2010, the Third Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that the state’s attorney general had no jurisdiction in its case, and allowed a lesbian couple to divorce. The Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas, however, stated that a gay couple in Dallas could not legally file for divorce under Texas law.
According to James Scheske, the divorce attorney representing the same-sex couples in the Texas Supreme Court, the cases are about “divorce and equality. He also says the contrary Dallas ruling “forecloses my client’s constitutional right to petition for divorce in his state of residency and thereby violates his rights under the 14th Amendment.”
Also, Sheske noted in a recent court hearing that if the state’s attorney general, who is arguing against the same-sex couples, prevails, the lesbian couple in Austin will be forced to remarry four years after their divorce.
But the same-sex couples have received strong opposition from the state. Sources say Deputy Attorney General James Blacklock argued in court that all same-sex marriages are void and unenforceable in Texas, regardless of the state of their origin.
“Texas law does not recognize those marriages,” said Blackock in court this week. “It is void for all purposes in Texas.”
The issue of same-sex divorce is rapidly becoming a topic of national conversation, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented same-sex couples who married in other states from receiving federal benefits.
Each state still has the right to define marriage as it sees fit, but states that do legalize gay marriage effectively have the support of the federal government after the recent Supreme Court decision.