Texas High Court Hears Arguments on Same-Sex Divorce
The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday about whether the state can grant divorces to gay couples married elsewhere despite its own constitutional ban on gay marriage, in one of the first serious challenges to that 2005 amendment.
The plaintiffs are gay couples from Austin and Dallas who married in Massachusetts several years ago and later filed for divorce in Texas. The Austin couple was granted a divorce, but Attorney General Greg Abbott intervened in the Dallas case and won an appeals court decision blocking a divorce ruling.
Abbott, who is running for governor, says Texas’ ban bars the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, and thus, bars it from granting same-sex divorces.
The couples want the high court to uphold their right to divorce in Texas or to deem the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.
Their attorney, James Scheske, told the all-Republican court Tuesday that Texas’ gay marriage ban doesn’t bar same-sex divorces because divorce is covered under a separate section of family law. Furthermore, he argued that the state can’t dispute that the couples were legally married elsewhere.
"Texas can’t prevent its gay and lesbian citizens from getting married" and returning home, he said. "There’s no dispute my clients were married."
Several justices asked how granting a divorce could not be an official recognition of marriage.
"Don’t you have to presume there is a legal marriage (to grant a divorce)?" Justice Don Willet asked Scheske.
Willet also asked Scheske if Texas’ gay marriage ban is "driven by irrational animus" against homosexuals.