So much for the media circus outside today's highly anticipated (judging by the advance news coverage, anyway) hearing at the George L. Allen Sr. Courts Building, where the Fifth Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case of two Dallas men trying to get divorced. Pete Schulte -- the attorney representing J.B., one half of the couple married in Massachusetts in 2006 and separated in '08 -- figured in advance there'd be a mob scene filled with those pro and con the would-be gay divorcees.
But when we arrived on the scene 20 minutes before court was called to order, we found only two men who were still making their signs in support of gay marriage equality -- or, in this case, gay divorce equality. Both were there on behalf of GetEQUAL, a LGBTQ group that they say advocates "direct action and civil disobedience."
"I wish more people were here," Michael Robinson said as he and David Bowling, one of GetEQUAL's so-called "straight allies," put the finishing touches on their signs. On March 18, Robinson was among those arrested in San Francisco for staging a sit-in at Nancy Pelosi's office. This was the opposite of that. By the time they finished their signs, the cameras from all the local TV stations were rolling; the protesters were outgunned.
But inside, the courtroom was at capacity. First up was Jimmy Blacklock, an assistant Texas solicitor general, who made the case that because gay marriage isn't recognized by Texas law, then gay divorce can't be either. Far as he and Greg Abbott are concerned, the only choice the court has is to essentially invalidate the Massachusetts marriage and declare it never happened. Like the eighth season of Dallas.
Jody Scheske, one of the other attorneys representing J.B., argued that Judge Tena Callahan, who granted the couple's divorce in October, had every right to hear and grant a divorce for "valid marriages" from another state.
"We're not challenging the same-sex marriage ban," Scheske said after the hearing. "My client's already in a same-sex marriage. He just wants a divorce."
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The judges aren't expected to rule for days -- or weeks. Or months.
We tried to speak with Blacklock on his way out of the court building, but he declined to answer our questions. "All questions," he said, needed to be addressed to the Attorney General's Office. Unlike the other side's attorneys, he didn't stick around for a post-hearing press conference.
We bumped into Pete Schulte, the former Dallas County Sheriff candidate who is also representing J.B. He told Unfair Park, "We're happy that the court let us present our argument and that they asked us both some excellent questions."
Robinson was outside the George Allen after the hearing; we bumped into him on the way out. He said he was "a little disappointed" and "stunned" by the turnout. "It makes me wonder about things," he said. "We had hoped that there would be at least 100 people out there with us." On the bright side, he said, there weren't any anti-gay protesters who turned out either.