HOUSTON VOICE www.houston voice.com
APRIL 4, 2003 5
Men reportedly will not pursue divorce further
DIVORCE, continued from Page 1
Under Vermont law, a civil union is
legal between two members of the same
sex, but a full-fledged marriage must be
between a woman and a man.
"Because these two men were never
married under either Vermont or Texas
law, they cannot legally petition for divorce
under the Texas Family Code," Abbott
said. "The court's final decree of divorce is
void as a matter of law."
Angela Hale, a spokeswoman in
Abbott's office, said part of the reason for
the attorney general's involvement is: "We
don't want to see a precedent set."
Beaumont attorney Ronnie Cohee, who
^represents Smith, said that even though
^Iexas law refers to a husband and wife when
talking about marriage, state law refers to
"parties" when addressing dissolution.
Lee Taft, director of the South Central
Regional Office for Lambda Legal Defense &
Education Fund, which works for equal civil
rights for gays, said any comment he would
have on the case would be speculative.
Lambda is not involved in the proceeding.
"At this point, it's my understanding
that the clients have made a decision not to
pursue this," Taft said. "There isn't really
a substantive issue to discuss.
"I don't know how the attorney general
was procedurally invited into the issue,"
he added. "This is. not a Lambda case. I'm
not familiar with the details of it."
According to a press release from
Abbott's office, Mulvaney reconsidered his
decision and concluded that the attorney
general "intervened and presented a legal
argument opposing the granting ■ of a
divorce, arguing that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. It is this court's
opinion that this case should be re-litigated, particularly with respect to the legal
issues of subject matter jurisdiction and
. the Full Faith and Credit Clause."
So, two days after Abbott intervened,
Judge Tom Mulvaney, who presides over the 279th
District Court in Beaumont, last month granted a
divorce reguest from two men. He set aside that
ruling last week.
Lee Taft, regional
director of the Dallas-
based Lambda Legal
office, said Thursday
that although Lambda
is not involved in the
Beaumont case, he
was told that the two
men have decided not
to pursue the issue
Mulvaney vacated his initial order and
ordered a new trial.
Reached at his home Tuesday, Anthony
declined to comment. Smith's attorney,
Cohee, was in court Thursday and did not
immediately return a telephone message.
The spokeswoman for Mulvaney said the
judge could not comment further on the
case, other than to confirm that it has been
dismissed as per the petitioner's request.
Smith, who petitioned for the divorce,
said getting the divorce in Texas was expensive and strenuous. But getting the union
dissolved in Vermont would have required
Smith or Anthony to live in that state for at
least a year before a final divorce hearing.
Smith said he had to get a legal divorce
for financial reasons. The couple did not
file joint income tax returns, but they did
have joint auto and life insurance. The two
also ran several businesses together and
the division of their assets and properties
was done by agreement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund
South Central Regional Office
3500 Oak Lawn Avenue, Suite 500
Dallas, TX 75219-6722
214-219-8585 • www.lambdalegal.org
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