Lambda Legal to Dallas Court: Marriage is Marriage

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May 6, 2020

Lambda Legal today filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals at Dallas on behalf of Gustavo Hinojosa, asking the court to recognize his long term committed relationship with his partner Steve Paul LaFredo as a common law marriage as defined by a Texas law.

“Gustavo and LaFredo held themselves out as a committed couple and did as much as was possible under then-Texas law to establish their commitment to each other after they moved to Texas in 2005,” Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Shelly Skeen said. “They lived as a married couple, which was all they could do until shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down discriminatory marriage bans nationwide in its historic Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in 2015.

“Unlike their different-sex counterparts, for whom formal and common law marriage was accessible, same-sex couples faced unique obstacles that only recently were erased by Obergefell. For example, they may not have been able to describe themselves as married on federal tax forms, loan documents, or deeds,” Skeen added. “For same-sex couples, informal marriage can serve a remedial role in correcting past injustices and legal barriers to marriage. Judges and juries must evaluate the evidence of a common law marriage in its entirety to determine whether the couples did what they could to solidify their relationships despite the unconstitutional restrictions. If a long-term committed different-sex relationship defines a common law marriage, so too must a similar same-sex relationship. There can be no distinction.”

The case is Hinojosa v. LaFredo.

Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Shelly Skeen authored the brief for Lambda Legal.