What Does the Supreme Court’s Ruling on DOMA Mean for Gay and Lesbian Couples Looking to File Bankruptcy in Texas?
Recently, in US v. Windsor, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. What this ruling essentially means is that the Federal Government can no longer deny federal benefits and protections to gay and lesbian couples who have married. This will include bankruptcy, seeing as how bankruptcy is Federal law. Prior to the decision by the Supreme Court, gay and lesbian couples could not file bankruptcy together as one household; the Windsor decision will change that. However, there is an important caveat to Windsor in that the Supreme Court did not rule that banning gay marriage is unconstitutional or should be legally recognized by the states.
Texas is currently a state that does not recognize gay marriage. So, in order to file bankruptcy as a married couple in Texas, a gay or lesbian couple would have to get married in a state that DOES recognize gay marriage. Currently California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington all recognize gay marriage. Since, the Federal Government can no longer discriminate against gay and lesbian couples who have married, the Federal Bankruptcy Court would be required to recognize the Debtors’ out of state marriage, and grant the couple a discharge despite Texas not recognizing gay marriage as a matter of Federal law.