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Texas Supreme Court hears argument in gay divorce cases

AUSTIN, Texas, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- The Texas Supreme Court heard argument Tuesday in the cases of two gay couples who want to be divorced in the state where same-sex marriages are not allowed.

State Deputy Attorney General James Blacklock told the high court allowing gay couples to legally end marriages from other states would be against the law in Texas, where any official acts recognizing or validating such unions is prohibited, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

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"Under the Texas Constitution and the Texas Family Code, all same-sex marriages are void and unenforceable for any reason, including divorce, regardless of where the marriage was created," Blacklock said during oral argument.

He said gay couples can get legally separated in Texas by asking a judge to declare their marriage void, the newspaper said.

But a lawyer for the two couples from Austin and Dallas said that option doesn't wash because it would, in effect, mean the marriage never legally existed elsewhere.

James Scheske argued Texas' ban on same-sex marriage should be separate from the issue of divorce.

"Marriage and divorce are separate and opposite from each other," he said. "None of that has anything to do with divorce. That all relates to marriage."

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Scheske said using the marriage ban to deny his clients a divorce presents a constitutional dilemma.

"Forcing a targeted group of citizens into a separate and unequal court procedure is never constitutional, and that's what happens here," he said.

The newspaper said the cases are the first test of Texas' ban on same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last summer state laws can be unconstitutional if they push legally married same-sex couples to second-class status.

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