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Lesbian couple can't cohabitate: Why not?

A lesbian couple can't cohabitate, a Texas judge ruled, because one woman's divorce settlement bars overnight guests except spouses  — and the lesbian couple can't marry in Texas.

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Plastic figurines depicting a female couple and a male couple are displayed for sale in Paris, France, April 27, shortly after same-sex marriage was legalized there. Gay marriage is still illegal in Texas, where a judge has ruled that a permanent clause in a woman's divorce settlement means she cannot live with her new partner.

Jacques Brinon / AP

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A judge has ruled that a North Texas lesbian couple can't cohabitate  — live together  — because of a morality clause in one of the women's divorce papers.

The clause is common in divorce cases in Texas and other states. It prevents a divorced parent from having a romantic partner spend the night while children are in the home. If the couple marries, they can get out from under the legal provision — but that is not an option for gay couples in Texas, where such marriages aren't recognized.

The Dallas Morning News reported that in a divorce hearing last month for Carolyn and Joshua Compton, Collin County District Judge John Roach Jr. enforced the terms detailed in their 2011 divorce papers. He ordered Carolyn Compton's partner, Page Price, to move out of the home they shared with the Comptons' two daughters, ages 10 and 13. The judge gave Price 30 days to find another place to live.

Paul Key said his client, Joshua Compton, wanted the clause enforced for his kids' benefit.

"The fact that they can't get married in Texas is a legislative issue," Key said. "It's not really our issue."

The Comptons had been married for 11 years before their split. Carolyn Compton originally filed for divorce in September 2010.

Roach said the clause doesn't target same-sex couples, adding that the language is gender neutral.

"It's a general provision for the benefit of the children," the judge said.

Price and Carolyn Compton said in a statement that they believe the clause is unconstitutional. But they also said they would comply with the order "even though it will be disruptive to their family and has the potential of being harmful to the children."

They also said in the statement that the clause "is a burden on parents, regardless of their sexual orientation, that takes away and unreasonably limits their ability to make parental decisions of whom their children may be around and unreasonably limits what the United State Supreme Court has identified as the liberty of thought, belief and expression."

They are considering whether to file an appeal.

In Collin County, the clause is part of the standing orders that apply to every divorce case filed and remains in force while the divorce is pending. In the case of the Comptons' divorce, the clause was also added to their final divorce decree. It has no expiration date.


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