In the on-going saga over whether Texas can grant gay couples a divorce when the state doesn’t recognize same-sex unions at all, the state’s attorney general’s office argued before a federal appeals court yesterday that the state should be able to refuse the dissolution of a marriage it doesn’t consider valid. Makes sense, no?
If you’re just joining us, recall that there are actually a few gay divorce cases going on in Texas. There’s Jeffrey and Henry Buck (who married in Massachusetts in 2006), who have been fighting to get Texas to grant them a divorce — something AG Gregory Abbott has been working furiously to keep the courts from granting. The last round, in August, went to Abbot when a federal judge overturned a lower court’s ruling that granted the divorce, effectively keeping the Bucks married. But not married. Confusing! (The Bucks, meanwhile, don’t want to be the posterchildren for gay marriage/divorce.)
And then there are the couples involved in yesterday’s case: Angelique Naylor (pictured) and Sabina Daly, who also married in Massachusetts before moving to Austin (where they met) and adopting a son, who’s now five. Like the Bucks, this lesbian couple wants Texas to formally end their marriage. But James Blacklock, an attorney in Abbott’s office — which also worked to prohibit this divorce, but lost in federal court — says the lower court’s judge ruled improperly, the Statesman reports.
Texas law not only limits marriage to opposite-sex couples, it forbids any action — including divorce — that recognizes or validates a same-sex marriage obtained out of state, said James Blacklock, a lawyer in Attorney General Greg Abbott’s appellate division. He urged the 3rd Court of Appeals to invalidate the divorce. “The people of Texas and their elected representatives have spoken very clearly on the issues of this case: Marriage consists solely of the union of one man and one woman,” Blacklock said during oral arguments.
[...] During Wednesday’s oral arguments, [the couple's lawyer Jody Scheske] argued Abbott waited too long by intervening after Jenkins had orally granted the divorce. Blacklock, Abbott’s lawyer, argued that the divorce wasn’t final until March, when the “sketchy” agreement read aloud the prior month was fleshed out in writing and signed by Jenkins. “Don’t you concede that final judgment was rendered that day when he said, ‘You are divorced’?” Henson asked. Jones jumped in: “I seem to recall a lot of cases where, if the judge says orally, ‘I grant your divorce,’ you are now divorced — it is effective as of that instant.”
Blacklock disagreed but added that Abbott can intervene anytime a Texas law, such as the same-sex marriage ban, is challenged. “It appears, at least in Travis County, that gay divorces are now legal. That’s why we are in this case,” he said. Texas law, Blacklock added, allows same-sex couples to legally dissolve their union through “voidance,” which divides property and is recognized nationwide. “This case is obviously about more than that,” he said. “This case is about the desire of same-sex couples to have their marriages recognized as law.”
And there’s the rub: It’s not that Blackrock (or his boss Abbott) wants gay couple to be unable to go their miserable ways. They just don’t want them doing so in a way that somehow infringes on the rights of straight couples to do so.