Friday, April 9, 2010

The Dallas Gay Divorce Case, Part I – A New Hope

State Rep. Warren Chisum and former State Sen. and current Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, the people who brought you the Texas version of the Defense of Marriage Act, have weighed in on the Dallas Gay Divorce Case that made headlines last fall. The two have filed what’s called an amicus brief with the state appeals court that is hearing the case. An amicus brief is a way for people who are indirectly connected to a civil case to express their opinion to the court.

There is a lot involved with this case, and it gets a little complicated so I’m going to break my posts on this issue into three parts. We’ll get back to the honorable misters Chisum and Staples in our next installment, but let's start with the case itself.

According to the Dallas Morning News State District Judge Tena Callahan granted a divorce to two gay men (identified as JB and HB) who had been married in Massachusetts, moved to Texas and then broke up. In granting the divorce the judge cited the 14th amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law (the 14th amendment is where this gets fun, more on that in parts II and III).

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott attempted to intervene in the ruling, arguing that the state constitution does not permit a state court to recognize a same-sex marriage and therefore it cannot dissolve that marriage.

(That would be Article I, sec 32 of the Texas State Constitution, known as the Texas Defense of Marriage Act:
“MARRIAGE. (a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. (b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.")

Judge Callahan claimed that her court had jurisdiction and that she didn’t need the Attorney General's permission to hear a divorce case. So Abbott has sued on behalf of the state (the state, that’s you and me), and has asked the Texas State 5th Appeals Court to overturn the ruling.

The Appeals Court will hear the case on April 21 (ironically my 10th anniversary), which is where Warren “The Bigot of Pampa” Chisum and Todd “What the hell does this have to do with Agriculture” Staples come in with their amicus brief, which was prepared, pro bono no less, by the radical right think tank The Liberty Institute.

But more on that in Part II…

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