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Texas judge agrees to hear same-sex divorce, finding marriage ban unconstitutional

[JURIST] Judge Tena Callahan of the 302nd Family District Court [official website] in Texas ruled Thursday that her Dallas family court has jurisdiction to hear the divorce proceedings of a Texas same-sex couple who were married in Massachusetts in 2006. In her ruling, Callahan also said that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] violates the equal protection clause [Dallas Morning News report] of the US constitution. Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage, and an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage was approved by Texas voters in 2005 [JURIST report]. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot [official website] indicated that he would immediately appeal the ruling [press release] in order to, "defend the traditional definition of marriage that was approved by Texas voters." Texas Governor Rick Perry echoed Abbot's statement and expressed confidence [press release] that the ruling would be overturned.

One of the most controversial issues in the US today, same-sex marriage has recently been considered again at the federal level. In mid-September, 90 members of the House of Representatives introduced a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [JURIST report]. Signed into law in 1996, DOMA [legislative materials] amended the federal definition of marriage to mean, "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." In August, a federal judge in California dismissed a challenge [JURIST report] to DOMA, saying that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. One week prior to that dismissal, the Department of Justice indicated it would continue to enforce DOMA [JURIST report], despite the administration's belief that the legislation is discriminatory. In June, New Hampshire became the sixth state to permit same-sex marriage [JURIST report].

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