The Dallas Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s order denying a plea to the jurisdiction that had been filed by the Texas attorney general, who had intervened in the proceeding for the purpose of contesting jurisdiction. The court of appeals held that Texas district courts lack jurisdiction to grant divorces to same-sex couples legally married in other states. Construing Texas Family Code Section 6.204(c), Justice Kerry FitzGerald, writing for a three-judge panel, held that section 6.204(c) "deprives the trial court of subject matter jurisdiction." The court further held that the state law prohibiting a divorce of parties to a same-sex marriage does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court’s opinion on In re J.B. & H.B. can be found at this link.
Mandamus aficionados may wish to study the portion of the court’s opinion holding that the attorney general had no adequate remedy by appeal because of the exceptional nature of the case involving (1) principles of subject-matter jurisdiction, (2) constitutional challenges, (3) potential interference with the State’s right to be heard, and (4) potential interference with the State’s right to appeal the denial of a plea to the jurisdiction.
One issue not addressed was the district court’s ruling that the State did not have standing to intervene. The court of appeals avoided addressing the standing issue by reasoning that the district court had ruled the State lacked standing after the State had filed an interlocutory appeal to complain of the district court’s earlier denial of the plea to the jurisdiction. The court of appeals held that the district court’s order addressing standing was signed in violation of the automatic stay set out in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 51.014(b).