Here’s a story that’s been bubbling up for a while but appears to have finally broken through to the larger news cycle, via the Associated Press:
A judge has ruled that a North Texas lesbian couple can’t live together because of a morality clause in one of the women’s divorce papers. The clause is common in divorce cases in Texas and other states. It prevents a divorced parent from having a romantic partner spend the night while children are in the home. If the couple marries, they can get out from under the legal provision—but that is not an option for gay couples in Texas, where such marriages aren’t recognized.
The issue appears to have first arisen last month during a divorce hearing for Carolyn and Joshua Compton in Collin County, Texas. According to the Dallas Morning News, District Judge John Roach Jr. decided to enforce the letter of the terms detailed in the former couple’s 2011 divorce papers, and ordered Carolyn’s partner of nearly three years, Page Price, to move out of the home she shared with Carolyn and her 10- and 13-year-old daughters. It was the ex-husband who requested the clause be enforced, according to his lawyer.
In handing down the ruling, the judge argued that the clause was “a general provision for the benefit of the children,” and one that was not written to specifically target homosexuals. While that last part my be true, it’s obvious that the provision affects homosexuals differently than it does their straight counterparts given that the Lone Star State doesn’t allow gays and lesbians to marry. According to the AP, the so-called morality clause is part of a standing order that applies to each and every divorce case filed in the county and was also added to the Comptons’ final divorce decree. It has no expiration date, meaning that the lesbian couple will need either a court to overturn the ruling or the state legislature to legalize gay marriage before they can move back in together with the kids.
According to the women’s lawyer, the morality clause technically makes it illegal for Carolyn to have anyone she is dating or intimate with at her home with her two children anytime after 9 p.m. In effect, that means Carolyn Compton had to choose between living with her lesbian partner and living with her children. The couple says they’ll obey the judge’s ruling and Price will move out while they consider their legal options.
The Comptons’ divorce was finalized in 2011, according to the Dallas Voice, but was reopened in April to dispute the current child-custody arrangement. Joshua Compton’s lawyer says his client asked to have the clause enforced as a matter of principle. “I see how this creates a situation where [Carolyn] can’t marry Page, while [Joshua] could marry a girlfriend,” lawyer Paul Key told the Huffington Post. “But that’s not why we’re doing it. We would have done the same thing if it were some guy that had moved in.” Key, likewise, told the AP: “The fact that they can’t get married in Texas is a legislative issue. It’s not really our issue.”
Read more about the case over at the Dallas Voice.
This post has been updated for clarity.