Texas Grants Divorce to Same-Sex Couple; Could Gay Marriage Be Next?

A Travis County judge's decision to grant his county's first same-sex divorce may have paved the way for same-sex marriage in Texas.

Judge Scott Jenkins ruled in February that Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, who were married in 2004 in Massachusetts, had the legal right to divorce in Texas. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott attempted to intervene in the case, stating that the gay couple could not be legally granted a divorce because Texas' constitutional amendment passed in 2005, defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The amendment passed by a margin of 76 percent to 24 percent. Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut and New Hampshire are the only states where same-sex couples may be married.

Attorney General Abbott took the position that legal voidance would be the proper way to end the couple's marriage. He said voidance would be faster, more reliable and cheaper than divorce proceedings.

On March 31, Judge Jenkins refused to allow the Attorney General to intervene since he had issued a final oral order in February, effectively ending any further argument about the case unless either party appeals. An appeal involving another same-sex divorce is already pending before the Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals.

Jennifer Cochran, who represented Angelique Naylor in the legal proceedings, feels the subject of same-sex marriage is one that Texas will be forced to confront again. "More and more states are recognizing same-sex marriage and passing laws and amendments that grant them," she told WALB 10 News. "More and more people are moving to the state of Texas because of the economy, so the Texas courts have to deal with this issue."

Some have argued the recent divorce ruling could eventually lead to legalization of same-sex marriage in Texas. But whether the legality of same-sex divorce requires legalization of same-sex marriage likely depends on the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Legislature and potentially a second constitutional amendment to overrule the state's current stand on same-sex marriage.