Texas Judge John Roach: Orders Lesbian Couple to Separate Or Lose Children

Caroline Compton and her partner, Page Price, have lived together and taken care of Compton’s children for almost three years, but a Texan judge is now forcing them apart

Compton is a mother of two children living in Collin County, Texas. She also happens to be a lesbian. On Tuesday, Republican Judge John Roach Jr., presiding over the 296th District Court, enforced a “morality clause” in Compton’s custody settlement, which forbids her to have a person who is not “related by blood or marriage” in her home after 9:00 p.m. This clause clearly targets homosexual couples in states where same-sex marriage is illegal, like Texas. It continues with and is perpetuated by homophobia, and the judge was wrong to use such an archaic and discriminatory law to separate the women.

Price wrote about the unfair ruling on her Facebook page last week, claiming that the judge used the morality clause because he disapproved of her lifestyle.

Compton’s children have already suffered through one divorce. She and her ex-husband split in 2011, but the case was reopened in April to dispute custody. Price wrote that Compton’s ex hardly visits their two children, and he hired a private detective to investigate his ex-wife’s life. The Dallas Voice reported that Compton’s ex-husband was charged with third-degree felony stalking in 2011, but pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing.

With Price, Compton was re-building a safe and supportive home for her kids. Rather than provide these two children with a loving family, Judge Roach is forcing them to endure another traumatic break up: this one due to prejudiced legal jargon rather than the irreconcilable differences of two adults.

“Our children are all happy and well adjusted,” wrote Price. Yet, the judge’s subjective view on morality will take Price away from the kids she has spent three years caring for.

That a morality clause ended up in a legal document may seem shocking, but it is somewhat common. According to Ken Upton Jr., senior staff attorney from Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, the clauses are often written into divorce settlements with people knowing, particularly in conservative areas like Collin County. In Compton’s case, the clause allows an individual to monitor their ex-spouse’s behavior and to wrongfully use a person’s sexually against them. It specifically and deliberately burdens gay people in states where same-sex marriage is illegal.

Despite the notoriously conservative Texas court system, Compton plans to appeal the case. They hope to win, as she and Price have built a healthy family environment. The outcome may set a precedent for how Texas courts interpret the morality clause.

“This could be an important case in Texas,” says Upton. “I think it’s a case to watch.”

The nation should keep a close eye on Texas to see if this homophobic clause is finally rejected, and if Compton and Price are allowed to keep their family together. 

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Alison G. Vingiano

Freelance journalist for Newsday. Seen elsewhere on the Internet, like Feministing, HelloGiggles, Splitsider, Bitch Flicks & the Jane Dough. I write www.47women.tumblr.com.

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