From the Star Telegram:
Texans: Are you really married?
Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, says that a 22-word clause in a 2005 constitutional amendment designed to ban gay marriages erroneously endangers the legal status of all marriages in the state.
The amendment, approved by the Texas Legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by Texas voters, declares that “marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” But the trouble-making phrase, as Radnofsky sees it, is Subsection B, which declares:
“This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”
Architects of the amendment included the clause to ban same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships.
But Radnofsky, who was a member of the powerhouse Vinson & Elkins law firm in Houston for 27 years until retiring in 2006, says the wording of Subsection B effectively “eliminates marriage in Texas,” including common-law marriages.
I can think of one person who’s thrilled to death over the news!
She calls it a “massive mistake” and blames the current attorney general, Republican Greg Abbott, for allowing the language to become part of the Texas Constitution. Radnofsky called on Abbott to acknowledge the wording as an error and consider an apology. She also said that another constitutional amendment may be necessary to reverse the problem.
Abbott spokesman Jerry Strickland said that the attorney general stands behind the 4-year-old amendment.
A conservative leader whose organization helped draft the amendment dismissed Radnofsky’s position, saying it was similar to scare tactics opponents used unsuccessfully against the proposal in 2005.
“It’s a silly argument,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the Liberty Legal Institute in Plano.
Shackelford said the clause was designed to be broad enough to prevent the creation of domestic partnerships, civil unions or other arrangements that would give same-sex couples many of the benefits of marriage.
Radnofsky acknowledged that the clause is not likely to result in an overnight dismantling of marriages in Texas. But she said the wording opens the door to legal claims involving spousal rights, insurance claims, inheritance and a host of other marriage-related issues.
“This breeds unneeded arguments, lawsuits and expense which could have been avoided by good lawyering,” Radnofsky said. “Yes, I believe the clear language of B bans all marriages, and this is indeed a huge mistake.”
Maybe that’ll will make Pickles Bush a little less sour.
In October, Dallas District Judge Tena Callahan ruled that the same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional because it stands in the way of gay divorce. Abbott is appealing the ruling, which came in a divorce petition involving two men who were married in Massachusetts in 2006.
Radnofsky, the Democratic nominee in the Senate race against Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2006, said she voted against the amendment but didn’t realize the legal implications until she began poring over the Texas Constitution to prepare for the attorney general’s race. She said she holds Abbott and his office responsible for not catching what she calls an “error of massive proportions.”
Abbott, a former state Supreme Court justice who was elected attorney general in 2002, has not indicated whether he will seek re-election and is known to be interested in running for lieutenant governor.
Controversy is swirling over a constitutional amendment that may not only ban same-sex marriage, but all marriages.
“When we looked at this section, and we could see it would apply to heterosexual couples, it was sad,” said attorney-at-law Deanna Whitley.
Whitley is talking about Article 1; Section 32 of the Texas Constitution. The amendment was added in 2005 to ban same-sex marriage. But some say the language is too vague, never actually specifying gay marriage.
“This state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage. It outlaws marriage,” Whitley argues.
Whitley says it is an issue that will certainly arise in divorce court, possibly causing some spouses to lose financial rights. And what could this mean for children of heterosexual couples?
“It places heterosexual couples in the same circumstance as gay and lesbian couples find themselves in today,” explained Whitley. “That is legal limbo.”
Equality at last!! How’s it feel, fundies?
But not everyone agrees. Senator Carlos Uresti calls Whitley’s interpretation a “ridiculous argument.” Senator Jeff Wentworth says it’s “preposterous,” adding, “the amendment does not ban straight marriage. Give me a break.”
Some attorneys say the controversy is far from over. They expect the argument to pop up in courtrooms across Texas, and not to be resolved until it lands in the lap of the U.S. Supreme Court.
George and Laura were married on November 5, 1977, at 11 A.M. in a small wedding in the Glass Chapel of the First United Methodist Church in Midland, Texas. It was the same church where Laura had been baptized. The officiant was Reverend Jerry Wyatt.
They had 75 guests. They didn’t have any bridesmaids, or groomsmen, or flower girls, or ringerbearers. Their wedding invitations were printed by hand.
George and Laura did not have a honeymoon.