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Appeals court overrules gay divorce ruling

Gay couples who got married outside of Texas can’t get a divorce inside Texas, according to the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas.

Two men won’t be able to turn their Massachusetts marriage into a Texas divorce, the Dallas Court of Appeals ruled today. At Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request, the court overruled a lower court’s order that granted them a divorce.

When a Dallas family court moved forward with the case last October, Abbott appealed, saying that “the laws and constitution of the State of Texas define marriage as an institution involving one man and one woman” and that the court’s decision “purports to strike down that constitutional definition.” The appeals court agreed with Abbott’s argument — essentially, that the state can’t dissolve a marriage that it doesn’t recognize — and asked the lower court today to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. […]

Randall Terrell, the political director of gay rights advocacy group Equality Texas, says the language interpreting the Constitution in the Dallas court’s ruling is “tailor-made” for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. That is, “if the parties have the financial wherewithal and the desire to push this case that far.” If the men decide to appeal today’s ruling — and their lawyer Pete Schulte says they haven’t yet made that decision — the next stop would first be the Texas Supreme Court.

You can read the ruling here (PDF); background on the case is here, here, and here. There are two things I know today. One is that it will take federal action for marriage equality to come to Texas. As was the case with the civil rights movement and women’s suffrage, this is the sort of thing that cannot be left up to the states. Whether by Congress or by the Supreme Court, this basic right will need to be federally enforced. That day is coming – not soon enough, of course, but it’s coming. And when it does, the other thing I know is that some day we will look back at this and wonder why it wasn’t always this way. We’ll marvel at the lengths that opponents went to delude themselves and distort the truth. And we’ll look at how far we’ve come and be glad. A statement from Equality Texas about this ruling is here.

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4 Comments

  1. Ron in Houston says:

    Well, color me not surprised. I agree with Mr. Terrell, this case is well positioned for Federal review. However, I don’t think they’ll have much luck in the U.S. 5th Circuit, so it’ll be a long road to Supreme Court review.

  2. Chris says:

    Ron it is my understanding that cases can be directly appealed from the Texas Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court.
    If this case is indeed appealed it could either be reviewed before the full circuit of the Texas 5th Court of Appeals OR it could be appealed directly to the Texas Supreme Court. The losing party could then petition the US Supreme Court to take up the case.

  3. If the Texas Supreme Court refuses to hear the appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court can take up the case directly from the Texas 5th Circuit.

  4. […] here and here for more background. I will be shocked if Abbott does not pursue this to the Supreme […]

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