A married couple filed for divorce in San Antonio this past February, but their petition was unusual in that their marriage isn’t legally recognized by the state of Texas. The divorce is between two women, and San Antonio attorneys keeping an eye on this first-ever same-sex petition for divorce in Texas would know that Texas won’t permit divorces for gay couples as it equally won’t issue marriages, San Antonio’s Express News source reports online. The issue was argued before the Texas Supreme Court at the end of last year, but no ruling has been issued—leaving couples like this one in legal limbo regarding the status of their unions.
Filed eight days before a district judge ruled Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage (and refusal to recognize out-of-state marriage licenses) unconstitutional, the petition bears the names of the parties Allison Flood Lesh and Kristi Lyn Lesh whose marriage license, obtained in Washington state, was recorded previously in Bexar County. Local San Antonio attorneys find the timing nothing less than ironic, since the judge stayed his ruling—leaving the ban intact and the Lesh family high and dry in their recourse to resolve their family matter.
It’s a complicated family matter, too, with children involved. Family law can be “messy” enough, with legal complexities overlapping emotional ties and biological claims, and San Antonio attorneys wager that this case will be nonetheless complicated for its custodial disputes. One of the family lawyers highlights the uniqueness that this couple faces, noting that they are “deprived of the benefits of an orderly dissolution of marriage,” and that the children “are denied the benefit of the many laws to protect their interests in the event of a divorce.” Benefits like child support and shared custody.
The interest of the children involved in the separation is one that seems to get Texans’ guts in a tangle, and their mouths going—as vulnerable parties, who will protect them when the laws designed to in traditional marriages fall short? San Antonio attorneys like those representing the divorcing women would necessarily seek more immediate rulings for custody or visitation rights—but the fact that those have to be negotiated outside the divorce proceedings is costly, time-consuming and potentially unfair to all parties involved.
A spokeswoman for the Texas Attorney General’s office has declined to comment on this case, but the office’s general stance is in opposition to gay marriage and divorce. A legal brief issued from the AG’s office reiterated that out-of-state same-sex marriages aren’t valid in Texas, though couples can sue to have the marriage “declared void.” While a declaration of voided marriage may settle the matter for some couples in their hearts, it hardly provides the legal protections and benefits able to be conferred by a divorce, as the Lesh family is encountering.
The judge assigned to hear the Lesh case could decide to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter of same-sex marriage in Texas. That could be a while. In the meantime, both women are hoping for clarity on how to resolve the disputes about the children involved in the “divorce.”