HRC Blog

Appeals Court to Consider Divorce of Gay Couple in Texas

Equality Courts This afternoon, the 5th district Court of Appeals in Dallas will hear oral arguments in case of a gay couple seeking a divorce in the state of Texas. J.B. and H.B. were married in Massachusetts in 2006. Last year, the couple decided they wanted an amicable separation and looked to the courts to provide them with a legal divorce. Massachusetts is unable to provide them with a divorce because neither of the men are residents of the state. This is standard in all states for all married couples. While the time required to establish residence varies, couples are expected to divorce in the state in which they reside. The lower court judge granted the men a divorce, ruling that Texas’ constitutional amendment, defining marriage as between one man and one woman, violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. The Texas Attorney General appealed the ruling claiming that the state cannot grant a divorce when the state is prohibited by law from recognizing the underlying marriage. Currently, federal law also defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Earlier this spring, an Austin judge granted a divorce to a lesbian couple who has also been married in Massachusetts. The case being heard today is the first to be appealed to a higher court, though the Attorney General has indicated that he intends to challenge the Austin court ruling as well. There is a significant chance one of these two cases will be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

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