AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The Texas Supreme Court on Friday upheld a divorce granted in a lower court for a same-sex couple, a rare decision in a state that has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
The court ruled that state authorities, who tried to block the divorce, did not have appropriate standing in the matter and upheld the divorce of Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, who were married in Massachusetts in 2004.
“Accordingly, and as a simple matter of fact and record, the state is not party to the case,” the court said, adding the motion to block the divorce was filed too late. The motion was launched about four years ago by Greg Abbott, then the state’s attorney general.
The decision comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming days whether bans on same-sex marriage in places such as Texas violate the U.S. Constitution.
The two women settled their economic and family matters in a two-day hearing. A state judge orally issued a divorce pursuant to the agreement that was “intended to dispose of all economic issues and liabilities as between the parties whether they [are] divorced or not,” the court said.
Abbott had argued that since same-sex marriage is banned under the state’s constitution, same-sex divorces cannot be granted by state courts.
“The Texas Supreme Court’s decision is disappointing and legally incorrect,” Abbott, who is now the Texas governor, said in a statement. “The court mistakenly relied on a technicality to allow this divorce to proceed.”
Current Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, “the Texas Supreme Court effectively recognized same-sex divorce in Texas, contrary to the State Constitution, and without allowing the State to mount a defense.”
The head of Equality Texas, a same-sex marriage advocacy group, said the couple had been waiting for four years for the decision.
“The Texas Supreme Court got this case right,” said Chuck Smith.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott and Sandra Maler