Marriage Inconvenience

Texas Forces Same-Sex Couple Seeking Divorce To Remain Married

Texas won’t recognize your marriage. But once you are married, it won’t let end it either. That’s the problem facing a gay couple who were legally wed in Massachusetts and now live in Texas. The pair, known in court papers only by the initials J.B. and H.B., have decided to part amicably. The state of Texas, however, won’t let them.

The couple first sought a divorce in 2009, and a family court judge granted them the request. But a three-judge panel of the state appeals court overturned that ruling, saying that the state isn’t about to allow the dissolution of a marriage that it doesn’t allow in the first place. In essence, the state is saying that we don’t recognize your marriage, except when you want out of it. And then we’ll make you stay together.

Normally, divorces are a matter of residency. You can only have a divorce granted in the state in which you live. In order for J.B. and H.B. to get divorced, they would have to move to another state, presumably one where marriage equality is legal. In any other state, particularly one that explicitly bans same-sex marriage, they would potentially face the same problem they have in Texas.

The couple’s case will go before the state Supreme Court in November. The Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, has weighed in on the case, arguing that “because the Constitution and laws of the state of Texas define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the court correctly ruled that Texas courts do not have authority to grant a same-sex divorce.”

Ironically, even though Texas doesn’t recognize the couple’s marriage, the federal government does. Until they are divorced, they can file joint tax returns.