Friday , 18 August 2017
Opinion_graphic

Don’t Blame the Judge, Blame the Law in Divorce Case

By Matthew Bado, TSB Staff

I was aghast when I first read that one of our Collin County family law judges ordered a lesbian woman to move out of the home she has shared with her partner for the last three years as a result of her partner’s divorce. In our social media-crazed world, words like “bigot” and “homophobe” are being spread about the judge from coast-to-coast.    

We all know divorce can get messy. Divorce involving same-sex couples can get even messier.  It is unfortunate that Judge John Roach, Jr., the presiding judge of the divorce case involving two same-sex women in North Texas, is the subject of inappropriate character attacks that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The case involved Carolyn Compton, her partner Page Price and her ex-husband Joshua Compton. Price posted on her Facebook page earlier this month that Judge Roach ordered her to move out of her home, shared with Carolyn, within 30 days as part of a “morality clause” which requires that no person be at the divorced person’s home between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. unless related by blood or marriage. Price went further on Facebook saying that the Judge would throw her in jail for being gay if he could and that he didn’t like Carolyn’s lifestyle.

When asked about these statements, Roach told me outright, “Not true. I did not say those things. Anytime a person files for divorce these standing orders are equally applied to protect the best interests of the children.”

I’ve spoken to several local family law attorneys who say Roach is the consummate professional; none could believe he would say anything as disparaging about another human being.

Many gay rights activists are shouting their “Roach rage” from the rooftops, using social media as their launch pad. While I don’t dismiss the anger felt, I believe it should be re-directed toward the law rather than the judge, who enforced the law equally to both ex-husband and ex-wife.

“Many don’t realize that the order was applied to both the ex-husband and her [Carolyn] both,” said Roach. 

Therein lies the crux of the law and why people should be mad as hell. In reviewing the court transcript of the preceding, Carolyn’s attorney rightly asked Roach,

“Just to clarify, the difference here is that that is a heavier burden on my client versus Mr. Key’s client, because Mr. Key’s client can get married in the State of Texas whereas my client can’t, and that doesn’t allow for her to have those same rights as him.”

In other words, Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage so Page must move out of her own home. Carolyn’s attorney further asked Roach, “Is it the court’s order that this clarification would not violate the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution in regards to our client?” Roach answered, “yes.” (download the full transcript below.)

It is my view that the judge’s order does in fact violate the equal protection clause in the Constitution. I also believe Judge Roach could have done a better job of understanding the context of this modern family unit. I read that Jonathan, the ex, hired a private investigator who undoubtedly pushed for the morality clause’s inclusion knowing full-well that Carolyn couldn’t do anything about it. How is that fair and just?

I’m not happy about the ruling but I do not blame Judge Roach, who by all accounts is well-respected in the community as well as in the courtroom. He did not act outside the law. It is the law that needs changed or at least clarified by the Supreme Court.

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court is supposed rule on the constitutionality of same sex marriage in June, I urge the gay rights community here in Texas to focus on the next round of elections, both for the courts and legislature. History is on our side, the public is on our side. We just need our elected officials to get there with us.

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