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Judge recognizes common-law marriage of same-sex widow

Depending on your point of view a probate court's decision Wednesday is either more salt in an open wound or another nail in the coffin of the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Texas.

Regardless of what side of the fence you may stand on, one clear conclusion to draw is that the cause of individual rights under family law is something that needs defending.

As most readers of this blog surely know the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal earlier this year. That does not mean that the veil of uncertainty around every possible legal question has been lifted. And so the ruling by the judge in Travis County, over objections of the state's attorney general, is considered by some observers to be precedent setting.

The case involves a woman who had entered into a marriage with her same-sex partner back in 2008, before such unions were legally recognized. Last year, the woman's spouse died of colon cancer. That triggered a legal fight between the cancer victim's family and the spouse over whether she should be granted spouse status as part of resolving the dead woman's estate. The attorney general entered the fray on the side of the family.

But in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in June, the widow and her former in-laws came to terms, including recognizing the two women's union as a common-law marriage under Texas law. This week, the judge put his stamp of approval on the deal and removed the AG from the case.

A spokeswoman for the AG's office says an appeal of the decision is being considered. She says there is a potential that the case could spark new actions on other long-settled probate cases. But several legal experts say that's not true. One observes that once probate cases are closed, they stay closed.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Judge recognizes same-sex common law marriage," Lauren McGaughy, Sept. 16, 2015

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