Texas Divorce Courts Caught in Tug of War over Same Sex Divorces

GenderIn February, we reported on two same sex divorce cases tied up in the Texas Supreme Court. The issue is whether a gay couple legally married in another state can get divorced in Texas, when Texas does not allow or recognize same sex marriages. The highest state court has not yet issued a decision, but a Bexar County divorce judge isn’t waiting.

Bexar County judge moves forward

In February, Allison Leona Flood Lesh filed for divorce in San Antonio’s Bexar County divorce court. She and her spouse, Kristi Lyn Lesh, entered into a legal marriage in Washington, D.C. in 2010. Kristi moved to dismiss the proceedings, relying on the state’s gay marriage ban.

Undeterred by the fact that the issue was pending in the Texas Supreme Court, District Judge Barbara Hanson Nellermoe of San Antonio decided on April 22, 2014 that the divorce case could continue, stating that the state’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. Read Judge Nellermoe’s opinion.

Texas Attorney General Blocks Further Proceedings

Two days after Judge Nellermoe issued her ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asked the state appeals court for an emergency stay, arguing speedy action was needed to avoid the “legal chaos” which would ensue if other divorce courts in Texas decided to follow Judge Nellermoe’s lead.

The appellate court granted Abbott’s request, effectively halting further proceedings.

It should be noted that Texas Attorney General Abbott figures prominently in the cases pending in the state Supreme Court as well. He intervened in those cases, arguing essentially that recognizing a marriage is an indispensable prerequisite to dissolving a marriage and because Texas has banned same sex marriages, it cannot grant same sex divorces.

Tennis anyone?

Will the intermediate appellate court rule on the Lesh case first, or defer and wait for the Texas Supreme Court to issue a ruling? In the meantime, will other Texas divorce courts decide to let similar cases move forward?

Of course, the Texas Supreme Court has the last say in Texas, but even then, the issue will probably be elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Whether you are an opponent or proponent of same-sex marriage, we can all agree this issue has nationwide implications, since many other states have a similar ban on gay marriage. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this issue.

Call for divorce assistance

The attorneys at Peterson Law Group have significant experience handling complicated family law issues involving property divisions, child custody and support, among others. Our experienced Conroe, Texas divorce attorneys are here to protect your rights and interests in every case. Call us at 936-337-4681 or 979-703-7014 to arrange a consultation, or visit us online.

About Chris Peterson

Chris Peterson is an attorney and the owner and founder of Peterson Law Group, a Texas law firm with offices in Bryan/College Station and Kingwood. He mainly practices in the areas of Estate Planning and Business Planning. Chris is also a Certified Estate Planner. Besides his law practice, Chris is a serial entrepreneur and community volunteer. He is known for his cutting edge law practice that utilizes technology to deliver efficient, excellent work.