Texas Supreme Court to Decide If Gay Dallas Couple Can Divorce

Jeffrey and Henry Buck were married in Massachusetts on September 22, 2006, some two years after the state recognized same-sex unions. They moved to Texas in 2008 and quickly discovered what heterosexual couples have known for ages about the sanctity of matrimony: Sometimes it just doesn't work out. The Bucks separated in November of that year and Jeffrey Buck (who now prefers Jeffrey Holt Johnson) filed for divorce in Dallas County court in January 2009, citing "discord or conflict of personalities."

There was, however, a very large obstacle to the equitable and lawful dissolution of their marriage: The Texas Attorney General's Office. A solicitor for Greg Abbott intervened in the divorce case, arguing that the Texas Constitution does not recognize same-sex marriages and, as such, couldn't preside over the ending of one. What's more, he invoked the federal Defense of Marriage Act, "which specifically protects the rights of the states to refuse to recognize or give effect to marriages between persons of the same sex ..."

Family District Judge Tena Callahan ruled that the prohibitions violated the 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause and wouldn't be countenanced by her court. Abbott's office appealed and won -- a state appeals court reversed Callahan's order and dismissed the divorce case. The story might have ended there, but as it turned out, the question of whether gays legally married in other states can divorce in Texas was about to get another hearing.

The Texas Supreme Court announced Friday that it would take up the issue. This comes some two months after a split U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of DOMA that denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

It remains to be seen how the high state court will interpret the opinion. The federal government can no longer refuse to recognize the marriage certificates of states like Massachusetts. The interesting question will be: Can Texas?

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Brantley Hargrove

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