In Re Marriage of J.B. and H.B and State v. Naylor

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Status: Closed
Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals
Issues: Marriage, Relationships and Family Protections

Amicus brief to the Texas Supreme Court in support of the petitions of J.B. and H.B. and Naylor and Daly, two married same-sex couples seeking to get divorced.

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Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Texas filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Texas Supreme Court in the case of In the Matter of the Marriage of J.B. and H.B., asking the court to overturn a ruling from the Fifth District Court of Appeals and allow a married same-sex couple to get divorced. J.B. and H.B. are a same-sex couple who were legally married in Massachusetts in September 2006. In 2008, the couple moved to Texas and established residence in Dallas County. They eventually stopped living together in November 2008 and following the six-month residency requirement, J.B. filed an uncontested petition for divorce. The brief also addresses the related case of State v. Naylor, involving another married same-sex couple, Naylor and Daly, residents of Travis County, who were married in Massachusetts in September 2004 and soon after adopted a child. In December 2009, Naylor filed for divorce.

In both cases, the State claims that the Texas Constitution and Family Code prohibit it from exercising jurisdiction because divorce is available only “on the petition of either party to a marriage.” Because of the Texas Marriage Exclusions, including both statutory restrictions and an amendment to the state constitution, the State claims that same-sex couples cannot get divorced, even though the Marriage Exclusions don’t mention divorce. Instead, the State tells married same-sex couples that they only can have their marriages declared void – as if they never existed. In their brief, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Texas argue that forcing legally married same-sex couples to deny they were ever married is discriminatory, would impose significant emotional and financial harm and amounts to forcing them to erase their lived history together.  Moreover, as Texas is the only jurisdiction in which these couples can get a divorce, denying them access to the courts for purposes of securing an orderly and legal divorce illegally keeps these couples locked in a legal status against their will.