Thursday, April 22, 2010
The Dallas Court of Appeals heard argument yesterday in a case in which two men married in Massachusetts sought a divorce from a Texas court. The trial court granted a judgment of a divorce, and the Texas Attorney General has appealed.
The Dallas men, who declined to be interviewed for this story and are known only as J.B. and H.B. in court filings, had an amicable separation, with no disputes on separation of property and no children involved, said attorney Peter Schulte, who represents J.B. The couple, who married in 2006 in Massachusetts and separated two years later, simply want an official divorce, Schulte said.
Gay and lesbian couples who turn to the courts when they break up are getting mixed results across the nation. A Pennsylvania judge last month refused to divorce two women who married in Massachusetts, while New York grants such divorces even though the state doesn't allow same-sex marriage.
"The bottom line is that same-sex couples have families and their families have the same needs and problems, but often don't have the same rights," said Jennifer Pizer, a lawyer for Lambda Legal, a national legal organization that promotes equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
"It really is an unenviable position that the courts have put these couples in," said Karen Loewy, an attorney at the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.
Abbott, a Republican seeking re-election, declined to be interviewed for this story. He has argued in court filings that because the state doesn't recognize gay marriage there can be no divorce, but a gay or lesbian Texas couple may have a marriage voided. Attorneys representing such couples argue that voiding a marriage here could leave it intact in other states, creating problems for property divisions and other issues.
Dallas divorce attorney Tom Greenwald said he's advising gay couples to wait and see how things play out in the courts.
"Getting the court of appeals to even accept the issue is a step in the right direction in getting some clarity on this," he said. "We just don't know how to treat it."
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