Local attorney warns Texas couples against marrying in California

Posted on 15 May 2008 at 7:49pm
By John Wright

Thinking about taking a trip to California to get married?

According to Dallas gay rights attorney Ken Upton, you may want to think again.

Thursday’s decision by the California Supreme Court means that for the first time, gay couples who reside in Texas are eligible to be civilly married on U.S. soil. Unlike Massachusetts, where gay marriage has been legal since 2004, California has no residency requirement for marriage.

However, because Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages from other states, there’s no legal benefit to be gained, Upton said. And if you’re looking to make a symbolic gesture, many churches in Texas already perform same-sex weddings.

Upton warned that there may be legal complications for same-sex couples from other states who tie the knot in California. This "dual status," he said, can create headaches when it comes to things like income taxes and health benefits, especially since the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages.

Also, there is a residency requirement in California for divorce, meaning couples from other states who marry there may find it impossible to undo their vows.

"I would think long and hard before I did that," said Upton, senior staff attorney for the South Central Region at Lambda Legal, the national LGBT civil rights group. "I would ask yourself why you’re doing it."

Although he doesn’t recommend traveling to California to get married, Upton said there are plenty of reasons for the LGBT community in Texas and across the country to celebrate Thursday’s ruling.

Due to California’s huge population and economic influence on the rest of the country, Upton said the decision will make it more difficult for Congress to ignore the issue.

"I think the federal government’s going to have to now realize they’re not just dealing with a handful of married people in Massachusetts," Upton said. "California has a lot of clout. I think it’s going to change the dynamic."

Also, Upton said, courts in other states that are reviewing the legality of bans on same-sex marriage likely will be influenced by the decision.

The California Supreme Court has always been on the cutting edge and is highly respected across the country.

"Those courts now have a little bit of cover," Upton said. "They not only get the guidance of the California Supreme Court, they get a little bit of cover."

In addition to courts, the decision is also likely to influence state Legislatures, he added.

"There are some really strong language in the California opinion about why civil unions just aren’t good enough, and it’s fairly persuasive I think," Upton said. "What it means is that the movement now has momentum across the country."
E-mail wright@dallasvoice.com

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