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Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage could affect Texans

You have likely heard about the Supreme Court's recent rulings affecting same-sex couples. One effectively ended California's ban on same-sex marriage, and will likely have a more limited effect geographically. The other struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, commonly called DOMA, which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states that permitted them.

In Texas, same-sex marriage is not legal. Voters in the state approved a ban on same-sex unions in 2005. Yet, the rulings could mark a growing trend toward affording more of the rights and privileges associated with marriage to same-sex partners.

For example, in Houston, residents last year elected the city's first openly lesbian mayor. Gay rights activism has increased in recent years throughout the Lone Star State.

Will Texas soon recognize same-sex marriages in the wake of the new Supreme Court DOMA ruling? There has been deference to the decision-making authority of states in the same-sex marriage debate. Yet, it does not seem that voters in Texas are yet ready to endorse same-sex marriage.

Until they are, same-sex couples will still face a number of unique legal challenges. Even if they are not legally married, same-sex couples face problems relating to child custody and support, property division and adoption.

While legally married couples obviously encounter these same issues, dealing with them as a same-sex couple is different because the same rights guarantee to legally married individuals in Texas do not always apply. Thus, same-sex partners should be especially proactive about finding a family law attorney to represent them who is experienced in working with same-sex couples.

Source: Associated Press, Status of the States on Same-Sex Marriage, June 29, 2013

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