Texas same-sex marriage ban struck down, reinstated hours later
A number of years ago, Texas enacted a ban on same-sex marriage. Somewhat ironically, the first legal opinion in which a judge struck down the ban as unconstitutional concerned not a same-sex marriage, but a same-sex divorce.
The ruling was temporarily stayed by a higher court just days after it was issued. But change is on the wind in the Lone Star State, and whether issues surrounding same-sex marriage affect you personally or you are simply interested in a major family law topic that has been grabbing state and national headlines, you could benefit from learning a little more about the situation.
Judge said it is unconstitutional to deny children’s parents the right to marry
In 2010, the two women at the center of this case got married under the valid laws of Washington, D.C. Subsequently, they moved to Texas. A child was even born into the marriage through artificial insemination. But, things went south in the relationship, which gave rise to a major legal issue: the same-sex couple could not go through divorce and child custody proceedings in court in a state that never recognized their marriage in the first place.
In late April, 2014, a Texas District Court judge ruled that the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, writing that by “denying their parents the right to marry, Texas has created a suspect classification of children who are denied equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment.” The judge said the divorce and custody case could proceed.
However, just two days later, the Court of Appeals halted the case on the urgings of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. The proceedings will be stayed until the appeals court has had time to consider the Attorney General’s request that the district judge’s ruling be vacated as a violation of authority.
Case outcome could affect all unmarried partners in Texas, not just same-sex couples
Will the Texas ban on same-sex marriage stand, or will the ruling striking it down ultimately be upheld? For the time being, the answer is unclear. While this case works through the legal process, the legal status of domestic partners who are unmarried in the eyes of Texas will remain murky.
Although Texas currently recognizes neither same-sex marriage nor domestic partnerships, creative and experienced family law attorneys can use a series of existing legal instruments to craft a legal relationship between two parties that affords many of the same benefits of the domestic partnerships that are recognized in other states. This type of arrangement may be put into place for either same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples who do not wish to get married but still want to safeguard their rights. If you need help setting up a legal framework to protect you and your partner, contact a Texas family law attorney today.