Friday, December 18, 2009

Another Texas divorce case involving a same-sex couple - and my uneasiness about disclosing the plaintiff's name and the case number

_______ v. Angelique Naylor, Case No. _______ (Tx. Travis County 126th Dist. Ct.) (petition concerning parent-child relationship filed 01/05/09, and divorce petition filed 12/03/09)

On October 2nd, Texas District Court Judge Tena Callahan ruled that a same-sex couple has a constitutional right to divorce under the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, even though the state constitution bans same-sex marriage and legal status for relationships "similar" to marriage. The case is In the Matter of the Marriage of J.B. and H.B. (Tx. Dallas County 302nd Dist. Ct.). Attorney General Greg Abbott said that he would appeal the ruling "to defend the traditional definition of marriage that was approved by Texas voters."

News 8 Austin (12/17/09) and UPI (12/18/09) report on another same-sex divorce case in Austin. While J.B. and H.B. both wish to divorce, Angelique Naylor seeks a contested divorce from her spouse. According to News 8,
"Naylor's spouse is challenging her request for a divorce. She's citing Texas law, which does not recognize same-sex marriage." Not surprisingly, Abbott told News 8 that his office will "closely monitor" the case. He claims that Naylor's spouse is appropriately seeking a "voidance" of the relationship. A judge (not yet assigned) is expected to review the divorce petition in February.

Neither of the news reports identifies Naylor's spouse. That may be because the reporters have honored her preference to remain unidentified. Of course, theirs may just as well be an oversight. At any rate, I would rather not use this site to disclose her name, or the case number, although both are obviously a matter of public record. I would welcome comment on my decision to withhold both types of information. Does it matter that the plaintiff contests the divorce? Does the public have an overriding right to learn her name from a blog, even - or especially - if she may seek to avoid harmful consequences from identification by a blogger? Any interested party can call the Court, as I did. What ethical obligation does a blogger have here?


Angelique said...

It was courteous of you to leave out my spouse's name. While I do not mind being in the public spotlight, she does. Incidentally, I did not contact the media, however once I knew they were at the court house I decided to speak to them.

I have not shared her name with reporters during my interviews out of respect for her privacy.

Thank you for blogging, this is an important case in Texas history.


Jared Kyle said...

While you are free to disclose the name from an ethical standpoint as general information about such proceedings is readily accessible by the public, your decision to withhold the name barring any future compelling interests to do so is commendable. The material facts of the story are in no way misrepresented, yet the non-binding courtesy goes far in restoring faith in the media as a professional industry. said...

It's purely a courtesy on your part. The comment from the unnamed party's spouse suggests that your deference is appreciated.

Your reluctance to disclose because you are a blogger, though, raises an interesting question for me. You seem to me to suggest (by emphasizing "blog") that it might be more defensible if the disclosure were made by a MSM journalist. But I think that the issue is the same in either case, with the tough question being: How does one balance the journalist's obligation to relate a full story with countervailing privacy concerns? It's a tough call; in the case of MSM, often these decisions are made by editors. We bloggers are self-editing, which often makes for more disclosure -- esp. as many bloggers consider themselves in a sort of competition; i.e., "If I don't disclose it, someone else will, anyway."

From my perspective as someone who teaches Family Law, an interesting question revolves around how property would be divided in a divorce proceeding, as opposed to a "voidance." I'm going to blog about that later tonight.

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