Texas Gay Couple's Divorce Lawsuit Draws National Spotlight

A married gay couple's divorce case has made Texas another battleground for marriage.

Though the couple, who married in Massachusetts, is simply seeking a divorce, their case became politicized with same-sex marriage advocates and opponents entering the debate.

National attention was drawn to what was a personal issue when a Dallas judge ruled last week to agree to hear the divorce case. District Judge Tena Callahan further declared the state marriage amendment and the state's Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The ban violates the federal constitutional right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, she ruled.

Gay marriage supporters hailed the ruling which essentially recognized same-sex marriage but traditional marriage proponents immediately came out to defend what Texas voters approved in 2005 – that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman.

"The government cannot consider issuing a 'divorce' for a 'marriage' it doesn't recognize. Seventy-five percent of Texans in 2005 made it perfectly clear that marriage in their state is solely between one man and one woman," said Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund. "This ruling runs contrary to the voice of Texans and the historic purposes behind the state's marriage laws."

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he would appeal the ruling. He had intervened in the divorce case earlier, arguing that a Texas court could not dissolve the marriage because the state does not recognize gay marriage.

The gay couple, identified as J.B. and H.B., married three years ago in Cambridge, Mass., where same-sex marriage is legal, after being together nearly nine years. J.B. said he felt a mix of emotions after the court ruling, including relief and sadness but he did not join other gay marriage advocates in their celebration.

"I don't think the end of anyone's marriage can be celebrated as a victory," J.B. said on ABC's Good Morning America Weekend.

He emphasized on the news program that he was not a test case or the poster child for gay marriage.

"This is my battle over the Full Faith and Credit [Clause]. This is not about gay marriage," J.B. said.

The couple is not seeking to challenge the state's marriage amendment. They are seeking a divorce without having to return to Massachusetts.

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys plan to file a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the Callahan ruling. They are also battling a similar divorce case in Oklahoma, where a lesbian couple is seeking to split.