Court says gay couples can’t divorce in Texas
Gay couples legally married in other states cannot get a divorce in Texas, where same-sex marriage is banned, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The 5th Texas Court of Appeals ruled that a Dallas district court judge didn’t have the authority to hear a divorce case involving two Dallas men who married in Massachusetts in 2006. Republican state Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office had appealed after Judge Tena Callahan, a Democrat, said she did have jurisdiction and dismissed the state’s attempt to intervene.
"Today’s court of appeals decision overruled the district court’s improper ruling, confirmed the constitutionality of Texas’ traditional definition of marriage and correctly found that Texas courts lack the legal authority to grant divorces to same-sex couples," said Abbott spokesman Jerry Strickland.
Callahan also had ruled Texas couldn’t limit marriage to a man and a woman, but the appeals court said the state’s same-sex marriage ban was constitutional.
"A person does not and cannot seek a divorce without simultaneously asserting the existence and validity of a lawful marriage," Justice Kerry P. Fitzgerald wrote on behalf of three Republican appeals court justices. "Texas law, as embodied in our constitution and statutes, requires that a valid marriage must be a union of one man and one woman, and only when a union comprises one man and one woman can there be a divorce under Texas law."
The appeals court ordered the case be sent back to Callahan, who must vacate her order.
The men, known only as J.B. and H.B. in court filings, separated amicably two years after getting married.
J.B.’s attorney, Peter Schulte, has said the two men had no children and weren’t arguing over how to divide their property, but wanted an official divorce. Schulte said Tuesday they had not yet decided whether to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.