DALLAS – Drawing on his dual expertise in Family Law and Appellate Law, respected San Antonio attorney Richard R. Orsinger recently detailed the evolution of the ongoing debate surrounding the legalization of same-sex marriages in a presentation to the Texas Center for the Judiciary Family Justice Conference.
The presentation was based upon Mr. Orsinger’s paper “Same-Sex Marriages and Gender Identity Issues.” The full paper, and the accompanying power point presentation, can be found online at ONDAFamilyLaw.com. The Jan. 28 presentation was one of the first and most comprehensive assessments of the legal debate in Texas over marriage and divorce between same-sex partners.
In his presentation, Mr. Orsinger, a name partner in the Family Law firm Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP, offered an extensive review of related U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Courts of Appeals cases, as well as legislation such as the Defense of Marriage Act, choice-of-law principles, and the Texas state laws that provide a framework for the current debate over same-sex marriage. Additionally, he examined the process of bringing a constitutional challenge to Texas law.
The Texas Constitution and Texas Family Code currently prohibit state courts from recognizing same-sex marriages, including those from states where same-sex marriage is allowed. However, those prohibitions have been declared unconstitutional by a Federal District Judge in San Antonio. The appeal of that ruling was argued to a three-justice panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Jan. 9, with a decision expected later this year. In the meantime, some Texas district judges have begun to hear same-sex divorce cases involving partners who were legally married in other states.
In the introduction, Mr. Orsinger notes the legal parallels between the current litigation on same-sex marriage and the litigation that led to the overturning of state bans on interracial marriages in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia. Mr. Orsinger suggests that courts are again contemplating overriding historical precedents, the decisions of state legislatures, and amendments to state constitutions, based on the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“The validity of a marriage in the United States has historically been a question of state law. But U.S. Supreme Court precedent recognizes the right to marry the person of your choice as a fundamental right. When coupled with the equal protection and due process of law guarantees in the 14th Amendment, the vast majority of courts that have considered the question have held that any state law that impinges on the right to marry any person of any gender is unconstitutional, and that states must grant same-sex marriage and must recognize as valid those that were created elsewhere,” he says.
One of the most honored and respected Family Law attorneys in Texas, Mr. Orsinger was the recipient of the Texas Center for the Judiciary’s Exemplary Non-Judicial Faculty Award for 2013-2014. Selected for 12 consecutive years to the exclusive Texas Super Lawyers list, he also has been recognized five of the past six years as one of Texas’ Top 10 lawyers by Super Lawyers. He has been listed by The Best Lawyers in America among the leading Family Law attorneys in the country every year since 1987 and among the top Appellate Law attorneys since 2007. He is one of only two Texas attorneys to receive multiple Franklin Jones Best Continuing Legal Education Article Awards from the College of the State Bar of Texas.
With 17 lawyers and offices in Dallas and San Antonio, Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP, is one of the largest firms in Texas focused solely on trials and appeals in Family Law cases. Five partners are Fellows in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Every firm partner is a member of the Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists and all are Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Orsinger holds additional board certification in Civil Appellate Law. For more information, visit http://ondafamilylaw.com/.