DALLAS — A surprise court ruling from last week has heated up the gay-marriage debate in the state of Texas. A Dallas judge has permitted a gay couple, who had married in another state, to get a divorce even though Texas has banned gay marriage.
Judge Tena Callahan of the Family District Court ruled in favor of the divorce on October 1, reasoning that the ban violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the right to equal protection. While gay-rights advocates have applauded the decision, opponents are disparaging the ruling.
The two men, known in the media only as J.B. and H.B., married in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2006 and moved to Dallas after one spouse’s company transferred him there in 2007. They decided to divorce last January, but found they could only do so in Texas, since Massachusetts only grants divorces to couples living in the state.
“It’s not fair to make them uproot their lives, move back to another state, wait a year, and then file for divorce,” the couple’s divorce lawyer, Peter A. Schulte, told theNew York Timesafter the ruling.
J.B., meanwhile, viewed the decision less in terms of its legal and social ramifications than in a personal way. “Some have called for this to be a day of victory or a cause for celebration. It is actually a day of great personal sadness, as a chapter to my life ends,” he said in a press statement by way of his divorce attorney. “This is the common ground on which I stand with any person who has faced the end of their marriage.”
But Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott plans to appeal Callahan’s decision. Abbott was successful in blocking a civil dissolution of a gay union in 2003.
And the state’s governor, Rick Perry, supports Abbott’s position. “Texas voters and lawmakers have repeatedly affirmed the view that marriage is defined as between one man and one woman,” Governor Perry said in a statement. “I believe the ruling is flawed and should be appealed… Traditional marriage will be upheld in our state.”
Jon Nelson, a gay-rights spokesperson in Fort Worth, told theFort Worth Star-Telegram, “It’s a breath of fresh air that some jurist had enough courage to see discrimination for what it is.”
Currently, the only U.S. states that recognize gay marriage are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Iowa. New Hampshire will follow suit and legalize gay marriage in January.
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