Let's say you know a single mother with two children. She's provided for them their entire lives, including through a rocky divorce in which she was given full custody. Her ex-husband was charged with stalking her, and he rarely chooses to see the children as it is. Now, this woman has a partner of three years who helps her take care of the children, and everything seems to finally be falling into place.
This woman, Carolyn Compton, is a lesbian, and her partner is Page Price, a woman. And thanks to a "morality clause" in Compton's April custody settlement, Price has to move out of their house or Compton may lose custody of her children. You know, as if the divorce didn't rattle them enough.
On May 7, Judge John Roach Jr. of Texas' 296th District Court enforced this clause, which states that a person who has a "dating or intimate relationship" or is not related "by blood or marriage" is not allowed in Compton's house after 9 p.m. when children are present. According to Page, the judge only placed this clause in the divorce papers because he didn't like Compton's "lifestyle."
Since same-sex marriage is illegal and such marriages are not legally recognized in Texas, Page has no choice but to move out of the house she shares with Compton and her children, and has 30 days to do so.
"Our children are all happy and well adjusted," said Price. "By his enforcement, being that we cannot marry in this state, I have been ordered to move out of my home."
Ken Upton Jr., senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, says that judges often place this clause in custody settlements without either parents' knowledge, especially in conservative areas.
This means that an ex-husband could use his ex-wife's sexuality against her, or vice versa. Unfortunately, this is an all too common scenario in Texas.
"What the clause has become is an extra burden on gay people because they're no more likely to violate it than straight people," Upton said. "It's a problem that continues with homophobia."
In spite of the state's notoriously conservative court system, Compton and Price are in the process of appealing the decision. If the appeal is accepted, the court would look at Compton and Price's relationship and decide if it truly harms the children. Because their family unit is healthy, Upton believes they have a good chance to win the appeal.
"This could be an important case in Texas," added Upton. "I think it's a case to watch."
If the case is decided in favor of the couple, the state could take another look at how it interprets the "morality clause" with same-sex couples, who are not afforded the same right to marry as straight couples in a similar situation.
Who knows? Maybe Texas will do something right this time and end this blatant prejudice against same-sex couples. While same-sex marriage seems far off yet, small steps from such a largely conservative state could mean big things for the rest of the country.