TX Supreme Court to hear gay divorce cases

Angelique Naylor

Angelique Naylor stands near the Texas state capital in Austin in 2010. Naylor was granted a divorce from her and her wife’s Massachusetts marriage that same year, but the Texas Supreme Court will now hear the appeal challenging that the divorce violates the state’s constitutional marriage amendment.

It looks like the Texas Supreme Court will finally decide the fate of same-sex marriage in the Lone State State — at least for divorce purposes.

The high court recently requested additional briefs in the cases after the U.S. Supreme Court same-sex marriage rulings in June to determine what impact those rulings should have on their petitions. Combined oral arguments for the cases were scheduled Friday morning for Nov. 5.

Both cases, involving a Dallas gay couple and an Austin lesbian couple, have been before the high court since 2011. Briefs had been requested before, but the court hadn’t decided whether to take the cases, but legal experts expected them to take after the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings.

Lesbian couple Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly were granted a divorce in Austin in 2010. Anti-gay Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott intervened to challenge the divorce, but the appeals court ruled in 2011 that Abbott did not have standing. Abbott then appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

J.B. filed an uncontested petition for divorce from H.B. in Dallas County court four years ago to dissolve their 2006 Massachusetts marriage. But Abbott intervened to challenge the divorce petition, arguing that Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage also prohibits the state from granting gay divorces.

State District Judge Tena Callahan, a Dallas Democrat, later ruled in 2009 that not only could she hear J.B.’s petition but that the state’s marriage amendment is unconstitutional.

Abbott appealed to an all-Republican panel of the 5th District Court of Appeals reversed Callahan’s decision and ruled in Abbott’s favor in 2010. J.B. then appealed to state’s high court.

—  Dallasvoice

Is the Texas Supreme Court about to legalize same-sex marriage?

Rep. Dan Branch

Rep. Dan Branch

State Rep. Dan Branch is asking the Texas Supreme Court to block same-sex couples legally married in other states from obtaining divorces in the Lone State State. Meanwhile, attorneys for two same-sex couples seeking divorces in Texas are arguing that under the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage are also unconstitutional.

Branch, a Republican who’s running for attorney general in 2014, filed a friend-of-the-court brief Tuesday calling for the Texas Supreme Court to overturn the 3rd Circuit appeals court’s decision upholding a divorce granted to lesbian couple Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly in Austin in 2010. Current AG Greg Abbott intervened to challenge the divorce after it was granted, but the appeals court ruled in 2011 that Abbott did not have standing. Abbott appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

In his brief, Branch notes that he was a co-author of Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He also says he authored unsuccessful legislation in 2009 seeking to guarantee that the AG’s office’s would be permitted to defend Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage in court.

“Opponents of traditional marriage know that Texans believe strongly in the traditional institution of marriage — so Respondents cannot achieve their goals at the ballot box. They also know that they are wrong as a matter of constitutional law — so Respondents also cannot achieve their goals in this Court,” Branch writes in the brief. “Accordingly, the only way that Respondents can try to impose their vision upon the people of Texas is to trample upon both the legislative process by which Texas laws are supposed to be written, and the adversarial judicial process by which constitutional disputes are supposed to be resolved. Put simply, this lawsuit demonstrates that opponents of traditional marriage want to exclude the people of Texas from the legislative process — and then they want to exclude the legal representative of the people of Texas, the Attorney General of Texas, from the judicial process.”

—  John Wright

Newsweek on how it ain't easy for gay couples to become ex's in Texas — or anywhere else

Angelique Naylor was recently granted a divorce from her wife in Austin. But she fears Attorney General Greg Abbott will appeal the decision.
Angelique Naylor was recently granted a divorce from her wife in Austin. But she fears Attorney General Greg Abbott will appeal the decision.

Last week I got wind that an unnamed major media outlet was looking for a same-sex couple trying to get a divorce. Coincidentally, when I heard this, I had just gotten off the phone with Jennifer Cochran, the attorney for Angelique Naylor, a woman who was recently granted a divorce from her wife in Austin. I sent Cochran’s e-mail address to my contact, and just like that a week later, we have this article from Newsweek. The article uses the Austin case to illustrate the tremendous difficulties faced by same-sex couples who want to divorce, but the reporter also talked to Pete Schulte, one of the attorneys in a gay divorce case in Dallas. In fact, as the article points out, it was the Dallas case that inspired the Austin couple to seek a divorce after they unsuccessfully sought to settle their affairs through other legal means. And it’s the Dallas case, in which oral arguments are set for April 21 before the 5th District Court of Appeals, that some believe may reach the U.S. Supreme Court:

As for Angelique Naylor, she and her lawyer, Jennifer Cochran, are counting down the days until the 30-day window expires for the Texas attorney general to appeal her divorce. Cochran also worries that a negative decision in the Dallas case could potentially overturn Naylor’s divorce. “These couples are already going through three times the expense and headaches,” she says. More gay couples are likely to move to Texas, she adds, and Austin has become a popular destination for all Americans: “This is an issue that is not going to go away.” Naylor, however, expects the attorney general to intervene. “It’s an election year, and apparently attacking gay people is a good thing to throw resources at. But in my heart and mind I’m divorced, no matter what. I’ve closed that chapter of my life.”

—  John Wright

Another Texas district judge tells AG Greg Abbott to go stick it in a gay divorce case

Can you show me where in the Ten Commandments it says anything about gay divorce?
Can you show me where in the Ten Commandments it says anything about gay divorce?

As you may have heard, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott really likes sticking his nose in other people’s business. Last year Abbott tried to intervene in a same-sex divorce case in Dallas, and Judge Tena Callahan told him to go stick it somewhere else. Abbott, apparently a sore loser, has appealed Callahan’s decision to the 5th District Court of Appeals, which will hear oral arguments in April. In the meantime, an Austin district judge on Wednesday told Abbott essentially the same thing. From The Houston Chronicle:

Abbott’s deputies had argued in court filings that Angelique Naylor, 39, and Sabina Daly, 42, may not be legally granted a divorce because Texas law defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Naylor and Daly were married in 2004 in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. They returned to their home in Austin after their marriage and adopted a son who is now 4.

During a hearing, state District Judge Scott Jenkins questioned Abbott’s decision to pursue the case, noting that his office is involved in same-sex divorce litigation in Dallas that is already on appeal. That case, Jenkins said, is positioned to provide legal precedent on the legality of gay divorce. He suggested that a delayed disposition in the Travis County case could affect Naylor and Daly’s son.

But do you really think Abbott cares about the impact his involvement could have on this 4-year-old boy? How much you wanna bet his office appeals this decision, too?

—  John Wright

Austin woman contests wife's divorce petition by arguing that their marriage is illegal

Here’s a new one: An Austin woman is contesting her wife’s effort to divorce her by arguing that Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. That’s right, Dallas may have had the first same-sex divorce case in Texas, but Austin could have the first case anywhere in which one of the parties has actually tried to use a ban on same-sex marriage to prevent their spouse from obtaining a divorce. According to KXAN, the couple married in Massachusetts in 2004 and adopted a child together. The woman who’s seeking the divorce, Angelique Naylor, told KXAN: “On the day that we got married, she wanted equal rights. On the day that we adopted our child, she wanted equal rights. She’s just trying to tell the judge she doesn’t have to divide those assets with me.”

—  John Wright