February 2, 2016 | Share
What Obergefell v. Hodges Means for Same-Sex Couples in Texas
Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires all 50 states to both license and recognize same-sex marriages. In Texas and other states throughout the South, the Court’s decision has faced significant opposition – including from the Texas Attorney General.
However, among lawyers and legal authorities, at least one point has remained clear: The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision is controlling. As a result, following Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex and opposite-sex couples in Texas now have equal rights to get married and enjoy the benefits of marriage.
What Has Changed Since Obergefell v. Hodges?
Obergefell v. Hodges has resulted in a number of important changes for same-sex couples in Texas. Of course, the two most notable changes are:
- The courts can no longer deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and
- Same-sex couples who got married out-of-state are now entitled to have their marriages legally recognized in Texas.
With these rights as the backdrop, same-sex couples and the Texas courts are continuing to explore the boundaries of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Retroactively Enforcing Same-Sex Couples’ Rights
An interesting question arose in Texas a month after the Supreme Court’s decision: Are same-sex couples entitled to enforce their rights retroactively?
The question arose in a case involving a same-sex individual who died without a will in Texas prior to Obergefell, but after being legally married in New Mexico. The Texas Department of State Health Services identified him as “single” on his death certificate, resulting in his husband being denied the rights of a spouse under Texas’s laws governing distribution of estate property.
After the Court’s decision in Obergefell, the surviving husband filed a motion to amend the death certificate. A Texas judge ruled in his favor and the Attorney General and the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services eventually agreed to comply with the court’s ruling. As a result, in addition to prospectively exercising their rights, it appears that same-sex couples will have at least some opportunities to retroactively enforce their rights in Texas.
Other Implications of Obergefell v. Hodges
Following Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex spouses in Texas have a number of other important rights as well. For example, same-sex spouses are now entitled to spousal elections and related employment benefits at work (note that the IRS recognized same-sex marriages for tax purposes prior to Obergefell).
In addition, same-sex couples in Texas should now have an easier time with matters such as adoptions, assisted reproduction and filing for divorce. While same-sex couples were previously forced to go outside the state in many instances in order to enjoy the benefits of marriage, the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell means that this should no longer be required.
To learn more, we invite you to schedule a free consultation.
Contact the McKinney Family Lawyers at Nordhaus Walpole PLLC
The attorneys at Nordhaus Walpole PLLC provide experienced legal representation for same-sex and opposite-sex couples in Texas. If you have questions about marriage, divorce, custody rights, estate planning, or any other family-related legal matters, please contact us today.
Categories: Family Law & Divorce