Married, Sort Of: It's a Confusing Time to Be Gay and Married in the State of Texas

Federal and state rulings don’t agree on same-sex weddings, leaving gay couples in Texas in a special brand of limbo all their own.

Married, Sort Of: It's a Confusing Time to Be Gay and Married in the State of Texas
Max Burkhalter

Whenever my wife used to ask me whether or not same-sex marriage would ever be legal in all 50 states, I paraphrased Atticus Finch by saying, “We won’t live to see it, or if we do, we’ll be very, very old.” I last said that less than a decade ago, and it seems that I was very, very wrong.

Just as bans in every state against same-sex marriage rode a wave of homophobic outrage after a gay Minnesota couple tried to apply for a marriage in 1971 and made their way all the way to the Supreme Court, so has the long tide finally begun to roll back following a 2013 decision that invalidated part of the Defense of Marriage Act. It paved the way for the federal government to recognize same-sex couples married in states that had decided, whether through voter measures or judicial rulings, to allow homosexuals the marriage rights enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts.

Texas, is, as yet, not one of them. This leaves a thorny problem for couples like our own mayor and her wife who have left the city to wed in more friendly jurisdictions, then returned home. It’s a legal limbo in which you can never be entirely sure who is going to believe that you are legally wed or, worse, a legal guardian to your children.

Our cover story this week looks at several couples in Houston who have wed in states where it is legal and how the nebulous legal footing in a state that doesn’t recognize that affects their everyday lives and the lives of their children. It’s a rapidly changing paradigm that could alter their situations at any second, and they stand in sharp contrast to the more “normal” situations experienced by heterosexual husbands and wives.

Just last month, Mayor Annise Parker joined 200 other mayors in Dallas at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. There, that body voted to endorse the freedom to marry among same-sex couples, urging the courts to so rule in their upcoming cases. Maybe one day soon, setting up life as a married couple won’t require specialized lawyers and a vast array of planning for homosexuals.

But right now? In a state that at best only considers you sort of married, there’s a lot of red tape and uncertainty for married same-sex couples.

 
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