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The Next Frontier: The Right to Divorce for Same-Sex Couples

same-sex.jpgIt wasn't long after the U.S Supreme Court voted in favor of same-sex marriage throughout the country that a similar battle brewed in Texas: the right to divorce.

Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, both from Texas, married in 2004 in the state of Massachusetts.

The union didn't last long.

Same-Sex Couple Seeks Divorce in the Lone-Star State

Just a few years later, Naylor filed for divorce. It was complicated not just because they were gay but because they were raising a child and operating a business together.

Had they continued to live in Massachusetts, securing a divorce would have been easy. But they were from Texas and the state's position at the time was that there could only be a marital union between a man and a woman. Since same-sex marriage wasn't legal, women couldn't be divorced.

Ironically, it was Daly who argued the position that divorce was impossible.

The state court granted the divorce noting that the record stipulated that the judgment "is intended to be a substitute for . . . a valid and subsisting divorce," and "is intended to dispose of all economic issues and liabilities as between the parties whether they [are] divorced or not."

Attorney General's Office Steps In

The lawyers from the Texas Attorney General's Office didn't agree with the state court and the following day filed a petition to intervene in the decision.

In addition, the Attorney General's Office wanted the court to dismiss the petition for divorce based on the theory that the state court lacked jurisdiction in the case.

Despite Daly's previous objection to the divorce, she and Naylor joined forces to file a motion to strike the state's petition.

The court of appeals rejected the petition, stating that the State Attorney General's Office filed its paperwork late and lacked jurisdiction.

In the end, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled that the Attorney General's Office had no standing in the case and affirmed the appeal court's decision. If the Attorney General's Office had presented its case during the trial or appeal, it would have secured its standing and the outcome would likely have been far different.

Until recently, couples who married in the follow states and district also were able to obtain a dissolution:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington D.C

But that's changing.

Due to the historic vote by the Supreme Court of the Unites States on June 22, the area of family law for same-sex couples will continue to evolve. Stay posted.

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