Collin County’s John Roach Jr. enforces ‘morality clause’ in divorce papers saying woman can’t have roommate unless they’re married
MCKINNEY — Page Price and Carolyn Compton have been together for almost three years, but a Collin County judge is forcing them apart.
Judge John Roach Jr., a Republican who presides over the 296th District Court, enforced the “morality clause” in Compton’s divorce papers on Tuesday, May 7. Under the clause, someone who has a “dating or intimate relationship” with the person or is not related “by blood or marriage” is not allowed after 9 p.m. when the children are present. Price was given 30 days to move out of the home because the children live with the couple.
Price posted about the judge’s ruling on Facebook last week, writing that the judge placed the clause in the divorce papers because he didn’t like Compton’s “lifestyle.”
“Our children are all happy and well adjusted. By his enforcement, being that we cannot marry in this state, I have been ordered to move out of my home,” Price wrote.
Price also mentions that Compton’s ex-husband rarely sees their two children and was once charged with stalking Compton. She said he also hired a private investigator in order to bring the case before the judge. Court records show the ex-husband, Joshua Compton, was charged with third-degree felony stalking in 2011 but pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing.
Price declined an interview until her lawyers figure out the next step.
Compton was granted a divorce from her ex in 2011, according to court records. The case was reopened in April to dispute custody, which she shares with him.
Compton’s attorney, Barrett Stern, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. Her ex-husband’s attorney, Paul Key, also didn’t return a phone call.
Ken Upton Jr., senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, said he is familiar with the case. He said morality clauses are rarely enforced and were historically used to prevent unmarried people from cohabitating with children present. Courts often include the clauses without people knowing, especially in conservative areas like Collin County, he said.
Gay couples are unfairly targeted under the clause because they can’t legally marry in Texas, Upton said.
So, an ex who is upset that his marriage ended because his wife was gay could use it against her later.
“What the clause has become is an extra burden on gay people because they’re no more likely to violate it than straight people,” he said. “It’s a problem that continues with homophobia.”
Upton said Compton wasn’t held in contempt for living with Price, but the judge is going to issue a new order that cites Price must move out under the clause.
The couple can appeal the decision, which would likely be overturned. Upton said many appeals courts look at the relationship and if it causes any harm to the children in deciding whether to honor the morality clause. Being that the couple already lives together with a healthy environment for the kids, Upton said they stand a good chance to win on appeal.
If the couple decides to appeal, he said the case could set an example in Texas for how courts will interpret the clause for gay couples.
“This could be an important case in Texas,” he said. “I think it’s a case to watch.”
The situation is similar to a 2011 Houston case where a judge ruled that William Flowers couldn’t leave his children alone with his partner, Jim Evans, because they were not related by blood or adoption, despite the couple being married. Had he ruled under the morality clause, the partner would have had to move out.
The appeal was filed in October 2011 with the oral arguments heard in November 2012, according to court records. The ruling is still pending.
A fundraiser for Page Price and Carolyn Compton’s attorney fees is 3-6 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at Eden Lounge, 2911 Main Street. Admission is $25. Checks can also be sent to Dee Pennington, c/o Dallas Credit Union payable to Page Price. Mark Personal on envelope and mail to 1301 Young Street #100, Dallas, TX 75202.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 17, 2013,