Texas Supreme Court Hears Same-Sex Divorce Cases

Last Friday, the Texas Supreme Court announced plans to hear two cases in which same-sex couples married in Massachusetts are seeking a divorce in Texas.  As of this time, Texas does not recognize gay marriage as a state.  As reported by the Austin-American Statesman:

The cases, involving couples from Austin and Dallas, will be the first test of Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court determined this summer that marriage laws can be unconstitutional if they relegate legally married same-sex couples to second-class status.

Oral argument will be Nov. 5, and a ruling isn’t expected for months afterward.

Attorney General Greg Abbott argues that Texas law not only limits marriage to opposite-sex couples, it forbids any action — including divorce — that recognizes or validates a same-sex marriage obtained out of state.

Lawyers for the couples, two Austin women and two Dallas men who were married in Massachusetts, say Abbott lacks the authority to intervene in their lives because divorce is a private matter that does not obligate Texas to recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state.

But if Texas can deny same-sex couples the right to divorce, then the state’s ban on gay marriage should be overturned, the couples argue.

In a legal climate in which the Supreme Court of the United States this summer overturned portions of DOMA, the repercussions of acknowledging or denying a divorce for a state where same-sex marriage is unrecognized will be widespread.  One aspect to be watched will be how children of same-sex couples will be addressed in regards to custody, visitation, and parents rights.  The state may be able to address the issue as they would unmarried straight co-parents, but the murky waters of this issue are yet to be resolved.  For the sake of children whose parents are going through a divorce, you hope the courts can delicately and deftly navigate the legal aspects involved.  It will be even more crucial that our judges and lawyers approach these discussions with compassion and support in the proceeding months.

Saturday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice backs innocence, juvenile justice reforms, Grits for Breakfast

Though the Texas Supreme Court only has jurisdiction over civil and juvenile justice cases, Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson spoke out in his State of the Judiciary address yesterday on behalf of criminal-justice reform.

Wyoming Law Eliminating Mandatory Juvenile LWOP Won’t Be Retroactive, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

A recently-passed Wyoming law barring mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders will not apply to the state’s prisoners currently serving life sentences for crimes they committed as minors, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.

A bill signed earlier this month by Gov. Matthew Mead allows opportunities for parole after 25 years for juveniles with life sentences. When the law becomes effective this summer, it will not retroactively reduce the sentences of those already serving life without parole sentences for juvenile offenses within the state, according to Deputy Attorney General Dave Delicath.

Number of Kids Behind Bars Reaches 35-Year Law, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

There were fewer kids behind bars in 2010 than there have been in 35 years, demonstrating what one foundation called a “sea change” in American attitudes toward juvenile justice, according to a trio of new reports out today based on U.S. Census data.