Texas Judge Uses ‘Morality Clause’ to Divide Lesbian Couple, Gives Woman’s Partner 30 Days to Move Out

A Texas judge is forcing a lesbian couple apart because he disagrees with their "lifestyle".

The Dallas Voice reports:
Roach

Judge John Roach Jr., a Republican who presides over the 296th District Court, enforced the “morality clause” in Compton’s divorce papers on Tuesday, May 7. Under the clause, someone who has a “dating or intimate relationship” with the person or is not related “by blood or marriage” is not allowed after 9 p.m. when the children are present. Price was given 30 days to move out of the home because the children live with the couple.

Price posted about the judge’s ruling on Facebook last week, writing that the judge placed the clause in the divorce papers because he didn’t like Compton’s “lifestyle.”

“Our children are all happy and well adjusted. By his enforcement, being that we cannot marry in this state, I have been ordered to move out of my home,” Price wrote.

Price also mentions that Compton’s ex-husband rarely sees their two children and was once charged with stalking Compton. She said he also hired a private investigator in order to bring the case before the judge. Court records show the ex-husband, Joshua Compton, was charged with third-degree felony stalking in 2011 but pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing.

More at The Voice

Think Progress adds: "Compton can appeal Price’s decision, but her appeal will be heard by the notoriously conservative Texas court system. Ultimately, the question of whether Compton’s relationship with Price is entitled to the same dignity accorded to any other loving couple could rest with the United States Supreme Court."

Comments

  1. AdamTh says

    The lesbian couple can’t get married in Texas, but a heterosexual couple in the same situation can get married …

    This sounds like a good example of violating the equal protection clause if there every was one, and a good case to overturn the state’s ban against marriage equality.

  2. Bob says

    It;s TEX-ASS
    The maynfolks is always right
    The wimmenfolks don’t get no chance, unless they have put away lots of jewelry to sell after the divorce.

  3. Chris&David says

    Texas ultimately gave us a huge victory with Lawrence v Texas, we could be looking at an even larger victory with a Compton v Texas ruling – provided SCOTUS doesn’t completely settle the marriage equality issue this year.

  4. Bill says

    Well, an interesting legal case could arise if this couple goes on a short vacation to a state that allows same-sex marriages and ties the knot.

    The “morality clause” is apparently in a civil contract and may not say explicitly that the marriage has to be one recognized by the backward state of Texas.

  5. Alex Parrish says

    It is unclear to me whether this is a standard claus in the divorce proceedings in TX or it was “added” by the judge. If the clause is standard in divorce proceedings (and just not enforced) there is probably little recourse. Even if the clause is usually ignored, the fact this it is present is probably the clincher. OTOH — if this is just something the judge added at his own discretion, there is probably a good legal case, or there would be were this anywhere but TX. IMHO the judge would be hard-pressed to define a gay couple as de facto “immoral” in most courts, but, again, this is TX and what passes for knowledge and common-sense elsewhere is rare in TX.

  6. says

    It’s not easy for anyone to just move. Saying so is highly ignorant of people’s circumstances.

    I’m saying this as a Houstonian. My partner’s kids reside in a nearby suburb with their mom and step-dad. It’s not exactly easy to just move away to a place where laws are more friendly for the sake of our relationship with the kids alone (on top of having stable careers).

    This case is just another reason why we need full marriage equality everywhere. It’s also a clear example of who the real victims are in the marriage fight: Anti-gay Christians who don’t want to serve gay people OR gay couples who are forced apart by crazy judges.

  7. Brian in Texas says

    Houston, the largest city in the state, has an openly gay mayor running for her third term in office.

    This could happen in any state. This just sounds like an ugly divorce/child custody dispute to me.

  8. Steve says

    If that isn’t a clear violation of Lawrence v Texas…

    But hardly unprecedented. In the late 90s a state (Kansas maybe, can’t remember) removed custody of a lesbian’s child in favor of her ex-husband who was a convicted murderer.
    In 2002, infamous Alabama theocrat Roy Moore wrote that the state has the right to execute gay people. The court as a whole also denied her custody although her ex-husband was abusive.

  9. Steve says

    @Bill
    The Supreme Court already ruled that states can freely ignore any law from another state they don’t like. Back in 1936. The Full Faith and Credit Clause only applies to court judgements.

    That’s also one reason why they can’t move now. Until this is resolved they are bound by the court ruling and moving would be seen as fleeing for something.

  10. Lymis says

    The clause is likely pretty standard, when a divorced parent has the kids living with them – my husband’s divorce papers had a similar clause in them.

    The idea is to keep an endless string of tricks staying over with the parent while the kids are in residence. It’s only because these women can’t be married that this comes up in their circumstance. An out-of-state marriage might out a twist on it, because divorces ARE recognized between states even if marriages aren’t – which might gum things up.

    I remember one couple that dealt with this while they were working it through the courts by parking a trailer in the yard and having the non-parent sleep there every night, since it wasn’t “the house.”

  11. Tyler says

    I would advise any gay person in Texas to seriously consider moving as soon as possible. Things are getting so bad with the Republican Reich there that it brings back memories of pre-Holocaust Germany.

  12. says

    @Brian in Texas, this couldn’t happen in any state. In states where gay couples can marry, the so-called morality clause wouldn’t apply, and in my state I can guarantee that a judge wouldn’t even attempt such a ruling. That’s not to say there aren’t pockets of tolerance in Texas, but this judgment would only fly in a state with anti-gay laws and where an anti-gay mindset is still acceptable.

  13. Kevin says

    But of course,gays and lesbians are politically powerful right John Roberts?
    It’s a given (as shown in New Mexico and New Jersey) that any state where Republicans are in control of any of the branches of government,gay rights simply won’t happen.

  14. says

    FWIW, Texas is actually predicted to turn blue in the next 8-16 years thanks to the influx in minorities. Hopefully it doesn’t take that long for things to turn around, but there is hope :-).

  15. macmantoo says

    friedpikmin, that may be the case but something tells me that the Republicans of Texas will do a few underhanded things to make it harder for those people to vote.

  16. JONES says

    The law is there to offer stability to the kids. This judges actions are the exact opposite. He’s using a section of a law to break up a stable home with children because he has issues with the LBGT community. This is the kind of action that should help SCOTUS to clearly see how the LBGT community is ‘legally’ discriminated against.

    Where are the elected officials of Texas to denounce this outrageous behavior?

    So what are the couple doing? How do they plan to challenge this? Is the ACLU involved? How about support groups in Texas and elsewhere?

  17. anon says

    Probably doesn’t reflect precedent in the state. A morality clause is not normally a blanket rule but would need context, so she has a very good chance to win on appeal.

  18. Bill says

    @Steve: the question was not whether the state of Texas can ignore a law it doesn’t like, or whether it can try to invoke DOMA to not recognize a same-sex marriage, but whether a contractual agreement between citizens can ignore what the contract clearly says: it apparently says “marriage,” not “marriage recognized by the state of Texas”.

    As an example, suppose someone sets up a trust for a nephew with a stipulation that the nephew cannot initiate any financial transactions until obtaining a driver’s license. So, the nephew
    goes to another state where the driving age is lower and gets a license. The nephew has fulfilled the requirements, even though the state he was from will not recognize that license due to his age.

    Similarly, if they got married in another state, the lesbian couple can claim they fulfilled the requirements specified in the contract, regardless of whether Texas recognizes their marriage or not. If the other party wanted it to be marriages recognized by Texas, it should say so in the contract.

  19. Bob says

    @Bill
    A- any comparison of domestic or estate courts in Texas to the rest of the country is perilous
    B- sorry, neither the marriage nor driver’s license you cite would be valid for a Texas resident, and certainly not to Texas judges, who are more interested in who butters their bread than in your theories.

  20. Krajci says

    More and more I’m starting to love the state of Texas. They’re refusing to allow themselves to be swayed or dictated to by the liberal/gay agenda.

  21. mousemess says

    I thank my lucky stars I don’t live in Texas. I live in Maryland. Maryland is a million times better than Texas or neighboring Virginia. Here’s why.

    Maryland (MD) has marriage equality. Maryland shares borders with marriage equality Delaware and marriage equality DC.
    As a gay couple, you don’t have to be a resident of Maryland to marry in Maryland.
    Whether or not Maryland allows you to marry in Maryland if your own state forbids same-sex marriage is something I am not sure about. Always check first if marrying in DC or in any of the 12 states that currently legalized it. About 3 of those states MN, DE and RI don’t have marriage available until sometime from June to August depending on which state.

    Maryland’s governor helped secure marriage equality by pushing and lobbying for it. Gays can adopt kids in MD. It’s forbidden by MD state law as well as by local Montgomery County, MD. law to discriminate against gay people in employment, housing and public accommodations. Maryland is a politically blue state with some conservative regions that went for Obama in 2012.

    Maryland judges cannot split families apart on the basis of sexual orientation alone as has happened in Virginia, Texas, etc.

    With that, welcome to Maryland. One good choice is Montgomery County.
    A politically liberal MD county bordering on beautiful Northwest Washington, DC and with much to offer with culture (Strathmore for concerts, cinemas, theatrical stages for plays, maybe 1 or 2 dinner theaters)and a huge variety of dining options, Metro subway system that connects PG and Montgomery Counties with DC and Northern Virginia, etc. Jobs and economy in the DC region not as bad as in other parts of the USA, etc.

  22. Ohdeam says

    I thank my lucky stars I don’t live in Maryland. Wasn’t at all impressed by that boring encyclopedia-entry post you just wrote. I live in Michigan (a Purple state that is conservative enough to snow any liberal leanings tolerable; we have it in our state constitution that same sex marriage is a no/no) but if I had to choose between Maryland and Texas, I would easily choose the latter. I simply do not want my children, or my nieces and nephews, raised in a climate that endorses gay marriage, or has them learning about homosexuality in their school text books.

  23. Steve says

    @Bill
    A marriage is not just a contract between two people, but between two people and the state. And it’s entirely based on a specific law. Once that law no longer applies, the contract is void.

  24. Bill says

    @Bob @Steve: you are missing the point. The marriage requirement was apparently put there by the other party in the divorce, not by the state,
    making it analogous to the driver’s license example I gave. In that example,the license was not being used as a document that allowed one to operate a motor vehicle, but as an indication that an individual had reached a minimum level of maturity as evidenced by going through the procedure necessary to get the license. In the case of these two lesbians, one can argue that getting a marriage license in any state obviously shows sufficient commitment to each other that living in the same home is appropriate in terms of “morals” regardless of whether the state recognizes that marriage. One can argue that for the state to try to define what marriage is morally recognized, as opposed to legally recognized, puts the state in the position of establishing a religion (at least de facto), which is forbidden by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

  25. Jenn says

    Roach is a terrible judge if I’ve ever seen. For one, morality clauses are outdated and not used here in the north eastern part of the USA.

    For two, he’s violating NUMEROUS rights and amendments, including:
    1. Romer v. Evans, one of the biggest gay rights cases ever to reach the supreme court.
    2. Civil rights act of 1964
    3. 4th amendment (no things should be seized without probable cause, there is no evidence of physical harm to the children)
    4. 14th amendment (“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;”
    5. 1rst amendment (right to privacy)
    6. 8th amendment (“nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”)
    7. Lawrence v. Texas, legalizing the private lifestyles and choices of not just homosexuals but every citizen of the US
    8. Several other clauses in amendments, federal laws and portions of the bill of rights also apply to the lesbian couple’s ability to live in the same home and keep their children.

    I’d like to get in touch with these people and offer the services of a lawyer I know who’s fought these cases numerous times and won. I think though, that the couple should just leave to another state and file for divorce there instead of dealing with the backwater texas legal system.

  26. DC Arnold says

    If you live in a state that is heavily repugnant you cannot be surprised by this asinine ruling. If TX wasn’t run by a idiot (Perry) I would say onward to the state supreme court but its populated by old white men and if you’re a minority forget it.

  27. olympiasepiriot says

    It would be interesting if anyone here could (thanks to Lexis Nexis, most likely) give us a precis of this judge’s previous decisions on all kinds of topics. This kind of stuff (not necessarily only homophobia) doesn’t usually drop out of the sky.

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