One small step, even if it was on a technicality.
As Texas waits on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage, the state’s highest civil court ruled Friday that the Texas attorney general tried too late to stop the divorce of a Texas couple married in Massachusetts.
Five members of the Texas Supreme Court affirmed a 2011 opinion from the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals that said the attorney general’s office did not have standing to appeal the divorce between Texas residents Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly.
“We agree with the court of appeals that the state lacks standing to appeal the trial court’s decree,” wrote Justice Jeff Brown for the majority. He was joined by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht and Justices Paul Green, Phil Johnson and Jeff Boyd.
Daly and Naylor married in Massachusetts in 2004. A few years later, Naylor filed for divorce and Texas District Judge Scott Jenkins of Travis County approved it.
In the opinion delivered Friday, Brown emphasized that the court’s decision was confined to whether or not the attorney general’s office’s attempt to intervene was timely.
“This Court has consistently recognized the State’s right to defend Texas law from constitutional challenge,” Brown wrote. “However, as the court of appeals explained, the State did not timely intervene in this dispute and therefore is not a party of record.”
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who formerly served as the state’s attorney general, called the court’s decision “disappointing and legally incorrect.” Abbott, also a former Texas Supreme Court justice, said the court “mistakenly relied on a technicality” in its ruling and failed to address the state’s constitutional definition of marriage.
“The state and all political subdivisions in Texas remain prohibited by the Texas Constitution from giving effect to a same-sex marriage or any document recognizing one — including the divorce decree in this case,” Abbott said in a statement.
See here, here, here, here, and here for the background. A copy of the decision is here, and the two different dissents are here and here. There was a similar case in Dallas where the appeals court overturned the lower court decision allowing the divorce to proceed. As the Statesman notes, that case eventually became moot when one of the people involved died. More recently, there was a case in Bexar County in which the judge told then-AG Abbott to butt out. I don’t know where that one stands at this time. All of this may well be moot in a couple of week’s time, assuming the US Supreme Court doesn’t throw us all a curve. In the meantime, it’s always a pleasure to see Greg Abbott strike out. Trail Blazers and RG Ratcliffe have more.