Has The First Step For Same Sex Marriage In Texas Been Taken?
Let’s be clear about this…the legalization of same sex marriages in the state of Texas has not occurred.
But, does our state’s recognition of same-sex couples whose marriages were performed in other states be the first step?
Depends on who you ask, I guess.
According to a press release by the Liberty Institute, The Texas Supreme Court is being asked to rule on several cases by affirming and upholding that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Since 2009, Texas courts have allowed 2 same sex couples to legally divorce. Their marriages were performed in Massachusetts, which allows these type of unions.
In a nutshell, the question being posed to lawmakers and courts is how can Texas courts allow the dissolution of a marriage that our state never recognized in the first place. Or, on the other hand, since the marriage was conducted outside the state of Texas, is the Lone Star State obliged to recognize these unions…and if so, is this ‘recognition’ the first step towards allowing these marriages in Texas.
The entire press release describing the situation from the point of view of the Liberty Institute follows:
PLANO, Texas, December 6, 2011 – Today, on behalf of Texas State Representative Warren Chisum and the Honorable Todd Staples, Liberty Institute filed amici curiae briefs with the Texas Supreme Court supporting the State of Texas and Attorney General Greg Abbott in two same-sex divorce cases, one originating from Dallas and one from Austin.
In the briefs, Liberty Institute asks the Texas Supreme Court to uphold the Texas Constitutional provision defining marriage as between one man and one woman, approved by over 76 percent of Texans in 2005, and similar language found in the Texas Family Code. Under Texas law, a court may only grant a divorce if the underlying marriage is recognized in the state. Because same-sex marriages are void in Texas, granting any same-sex couple a divorce violates Texas law.
Three Texas courts, the 302nd Family District Court, the 126th District Court, and the Third Court of Appeals, have unlawfully allowed same-sex couples to divorce. In 2009, the 302nd Family District Court granted two men married in Massachusetts a divorce and held Texas’s laws defining marriage unconstitutional. This decision was properly overturned by the Fifth Court of Appeals, which affirmed the constitutionality of Texas’s laws defining marriage. In 2010, the 126th District Court in Austin granted a divorce to another same-sex couple married in Massachusetts, Angelique S. Naylor and Sabina Daly. The Third Court of Appeals in Austin affirmed this decision.
“The courts that granted divorces to same-sex couples disregarded the Texas Constitution, in direct violation of the will of over 76 percent of Texans,” said Kelly Shackelford, President and Chief Counsel of Liberty Institute. “For these Courts to blatantly disregard Texas law is a direct affront to democracy and the will of the people. We are hopeful that the Texas Supreme Court will affirm that Texas only recognizes traditional marriage.”
In 2003, Chisum sponsored and Staples coauthored Senate Bill 7, which amended the Texas Family Code to clarify that Texas will not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions. In 2005, Chisum authored and Staples sponsored a constitutional amendment providing that marriage is limited to one man and one woman. In 2005, over 2.2 million voters turned out to the polls to vote on the amendment, with over 76 percent affirming traditional marriage.
“The Texas Supreme Court must stand behind the Fifth Court of Appeals decision that approves the constitutionality of Texas’ laws prohibiting same-sex marriage and divorce,” said Texas State Representative, Warren Chisum. “The decisions from the 126th District Court and the Third Court of Appeals that interpreted the Texas Family Code to allow same-sex divorce run contrary to the will of the people and previous court decisions, and must be reversed.”
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal and policy group dedicated to protecting freedoms and strengthening families. Visit www.libertyinstitute.org for more information.