Gay couples legally married in other states cannot get a divorce in Texas, where same-sex marriage is banned, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.
Two Dallas men, Jeffrey and Henry Buck, were married in Massachusetts in 2006, but separated amicably two years later. They recently filed for divorce in which Judge Tena Callahan presided over the case.
Republican state Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office had appealed saying she did have jurisdiction. They argued that the Texas Constitution does not recognize same-sex marriages and, as such, couldn’t preside over the ending of one, as reported in the Dallas Observer.
Abbott’s office appealed and won. The 5th Texas Court of Appeals ruled that a Dallas district court judge didn’t have the authority to hear a divorce case. They sent the case back to Callahan, who must vacate her order.
Callahan also had ruled Texas couldn’t limit marriage to a man and a woman, but the appeals court said the state’s same-sex marriage ban was constitutional.
Abbott’s office had argued before the three-judge appeals court in April that the couple was not eligible for a divorce in Texas because the state didn’t recognize their marriage.
The appeals court agreed with Abbott in that such unions could be dissolved by having the marriage declared void.
Among the reasons Jeffrey argued for a divorce rather than a voided marriage was that spousal support and community property laws only apply in divorce cases. The appeals court said those issues are policy arguments that must be addressed by the Legislature.
Texas voters passed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage by a 3-to-1 margin in 2005 even though state law already prohibited it.
Abbott’s office also appealed a gay divorce case in Austin after a judge there granted a divorce earlier this year to two women who married in Massachusetts in 2004. The Austin appeals court has not yet heard arguments in that case.