FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A Tarrant County judge has denied the request of two North Texas women seeking a same-sex divorce.
Brooke Powell and Cori Jo Long were married in June 2010, in New Hampshire, a state that recognizes same sex marriages.
Four years later, Powell has filed for divorce in Texas, where the two women live now. However, Judge William Harris turned down the request Friday morning in a Fort Worth courtroom.
“The ruling today is that the court does not have jurisdiction to entertain a petition to void or a petition to divorce,” explained Powell’s attorney Susan Smith, moments after the hearing.
Attorneys representing both women say it was a disappointment, but not a surprise.
“I can see where the court finds itself in such a dilemma given the existence of the Texas DOMA provision which prohibits same sex marriages,” explained Smith. “But there’s also statutory provisions in the Texas family code that do give, or that should give, same sex couples the ability to dissolve their relationships.”
Both attorneys say they plan to appeal the decision. Long’s attorney explained why her client wants to be granted a divorce rather than having the marriage declared as void.
“When a court declares a marriage void, as opposed to giving a divorce, it basically says it never existed. So any rights and duties, responsibilities, benefits that you would have under the law from your marriage are gone. Just like it never happened,” said attorney Sonya Carrillo.
“It happened,” said Long, as she stood outside the courtroom where her case had just been heard. “I’d just like for my marriage to be recognized as a marriage, and be able to be divorced as any divorced couple would be able to be divorced.”
The next step will be to take the case to the second court of appeals. Until then, the women are in limbo, said Long. In the eyes of federal law, they are still married, which would require them to continue to file federal tax returns together each year.
“The federal government recognizes her marriage as a valid, legal marriage for the purposes of any kind of federal law,” said Carrillo. “So if she were to get married today, She’d be committing bigamy. She’s precluded from getting married ever, until she gets her marriage dissolved.”
While Long says she has no plans to get married anytime soon, she says she would like to have the option if she decided to remarry in the future. Carrillo explained if Long wanted to get a divorce in New Hampshire, she would have to move there and set up residency for at least six months before she would be eligible.
While many states grapple with the issue related to the legality of same sex marriage, the issue of same sex divorce is making its way through the country’s legal system as well, says Carrillo.
“There’s a couple (cases) pending at the Supreme Court for same sex divorce. So if we were able to get one, absolutely, it would be ground breaking because there are couple just like Cori that are stuck in these marriages and that for whatever reason they can’t get a divorce. They have no avenue. This is the only court that can give her a divorce.”
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