The somewhat recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States declared it unconstitutional to deny federal benefits to same-sex spouses. There are a couple of key words in that sentence that have the potential to and have caused some confusion. Those two words are federal and spouses.
States have the authority to regulate family law matters as they see fit as long as they do not conflict with a federal ruling. Texas is a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages, which means that even if an individual is legally married in another state, they essentially aren’t considered a spouse under state law and may not be eligible for certain state benefits.
Why are we talking about this ruling literally months after it was made? A San Antonio judge recently ruled that the court had jurisdiction to hear a divorce case between a same-sex couple legally married elsewhere. This makes it the third such family law ruling in the state.
This case involved a couple from Bexar County that had legally married in Washington, D.C. The couple had a child together, but obviously only one of the women could carry and give birth to the child.Because Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage, there is no recognition of divorce or parental rights for the non-biological parent. It was the argument made by the biological mother. The judge ruled that several sections of the Texas Family Code and Section 32 of the Texas Constitution were actually unconstitutional. It was a ruling that allowed the child custody and divorce case to proceed.
Same-sex couples with family disputes in Dallas should discuss their legal rights and options with an attorney in the area.
Source: Houston Chronicle, “Judge says state can’t bar gay marriage or divorce,” Michelle Casady, April 23, 2014