A divorced woman and her lesbian partner will be forced to live separately after a Texas judge ruled invoked a morality clause that prevents a divorcee from cohabitating with a romantic partner while children are present.
Carolyn Compton divorced from Joshua Compton, her husband of 11 years, in 2011, and had been living with her partner, Page Price, and the Compton's two daughters.
Collin County Judge John Roach Jr. ruled on May 7 Price would have 30 days to move out of their home, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Roach's ruling enforced a clause in the Compton's divorce papers that prevents an unmarried parent from having overnight stays with a romantic partner, a common "morality clause" that straight couples can avert by simply getting married.
But Compton and Price don't have that option -- same sex marriages are not recognized in Texas -- and are claiming discrimination.
"Judge Roach Jr. placed this 'Morality Clause' in their divorce papers with no end date at his will during their final divorce hearing stating that he did not like Carolyn's 'lifestyle,'" Price wrote in a Facebook post that has helped bring the case to broad attention.
Now I realize there are those of you who don't agree with my "lifestyle", but the fact is that I wasn't given a choice. I also know that those of you who know me know that I am a good person and would never hurt a child in any way. Tell me how this is just. Equal rights?
Price also said Joshua Compton had hired a private investigator to help bring the case against the two women. Compton was charged with third-degree felony stalking in 2011 but pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor of criminal trespassing.
Judge Roach denied any bias against same-sex couples in his decision.
"It’s a general provision for the benefit of the children,” he said. “It’s applied equally to everybody.”
And a lawyer for Joshua Compton brushed aside the larger social rights implications of the case, saying it was simply a matter of a father looking out for his children.
“The fact that they can’t get married in Texas is a legislative issue,” said Paul Key, Joshua Compton's lawyer. “It’s not really our issue.”
In Collin County, the morality clause is a standing order for pending divorces, intended to limit children from exposure to an extramarital affair. But in the Compton's divorce, the clause was added to their final decree.
Although the divorce was finalized in 2011, Joshua Compton had his lawyer reopen the case in April.
But Carolyn Compton and Price say they believe the provision provides an extra "burden on parents, regardless of their sexual orientation, that takes away and unreasonably limits their ability to make parental decisions of whom their children may be around and unreasonably limits what the United State Supreme Court has identified as the liberty of thought, belief and expression.”
Ken Upton Jr., a Dallas-based attorney who is familiar with the case, told the Dallas Voice the provision, which courts can include in divorce decrees without people knowing, are used to unfairly target gay couples.
“What the clause has become is an extra burden on gay people because they’re no more likely to violate it than straight people,” he said. “It’s a problem that continues with homophobia.”