Texas is not known for being progressive when it comes to gay rights.
After all, it was in that state that a gay couple was prosecuted for having sex in their own bed in their own home.
When police broke in to serve a warrant, they were arrested. It was a challenge to that prosecution which led to the landmark United States Supreme Court case, Lawrence vs. Texas, protecting the sanctity of same sex liaisons.
So the Lone Star State is not the place where you would expect gay marriages to open a door to the future. But a gay divorce may do so. Here is why.
Last fall, in a small Texas jurisdiction, County Judge Tena Callahan, entered an order allowing two lesbians, Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, the right to be granted a divorce decree.
You see, there is a principle of law called ‘comity,’ which provides that one state must recognize what another state’s laws are. Thus, if a legally married couple from Massachusetts moves to Texas, and seeks a divorce there, the argument is that the state has to give it to them. That is what happened here, and now the Attorney General is not all too thrilled.
The divorce of the lesbian couple has the potential to affect thousands of gay couples in Texas. In fact, just last month, a Dallas man filed a new lawsuit to divorce his husband.
The Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the Court had no legal authority to grant the divorce to the lesbians, and that it would intervene “to defend the Texas Constitution,” which prohibits gay marriage.
“Texas can’t have a faulty precedent on the books that validates an illegal law,” Abbott said in court documents. He also announced that he intends to intervene early on in the Dallas case involving the two men seeking a divorce.
Abbott’s statement argues that because the law and the Constitution of Texas defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, voidance, not divorce, is the proper remedy.
“I’m not sure why the attorney general is choosing to intervene when the matter’s settled and the family’s finally at peace for the first time in a long time,” said Naylor.
Judge Callahan explained her ruling to the Stonewall Democrats of Texas in an October meeting. She said “My dad always used to tell me that a billion people can believe in a bad idea, and it’s still a bad idea. And that man taught me to have the courage of my convictions and to do what’s right.”
Of her divorce, Naylor said they chose that legal vehicle because it made it easier to sort out their affairs, which included a business they owned together and an adopted child.
“It wasn’t about gay rights,” Naylor had told the Dallas Voice, “It was about two people who had serious legal issues that needed to be resolved with a judge.”
It may not have been about gay rights when the case was filed, but as the story circulates through the national gay media and hits UPI and the AP, it may well be a landmark case down the road. Watch it closely.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, just the reverse is taking place. Attorney General Martha Coakley went to court last week asking a judge to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, saying it is unconstitutional, and interferes with their state law allowing gay marriages in the Bay state.