Texas Judge Hands Down Anti-Gay Custody Injunction
It’s a story from Rick Perry’s Texas: A judge who not only sits on the bench in Houston but is also an official with the Texas Republican National Committee has, without cause, told a gay divorced father that he may not leave his children alone with any man who is not a relative either "by blood or adoption."
Such an injunction might ordinarily be found in a case where there were claims of actual or potential abuse targeting the children, but no such claims were ever made in the custody case brought by William Flowers, reported a blog hosted by the Houston Chronicle on Aug. 22.
"Because there was no allegation of abuse in the case, family law practitioners say the order is an unheard of infringement on the rights of parents and a judicial condemnation of the fact that the man, William Flowers, is not only gay but married to his partner, Jim Evans," the blog posting said.
Flowers and Evans were married in Connecticut on Mach 19, 2010. Texas law does not recognize marriage between persons of the same gender. An anti-gay federal law from 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), gives states the right to ignore same-sex marriages granted in other jurisdictions, despite the Constitution’s "full faith and credit" clause, which stipulates that any legal contract entered into in any one of the states must be honored by all states.
Harris County 309th District Family Court Associate Judge Charley Prine’s injunction means that Flowers cannot leave his children unattended with Evans, but it also means he cannot take his children to school and leave them there unless all their instructors, coaches, and other staff with whom they might come into contact are female. Nor could Flowers leave his children unattended with male dentists, physicians, clergy, or others.
No such injunction was leveled at Flowers’ ex-wife, however.
A protest of the injunction took place at Houston’s courthouse, reported a story posted on Sept. 9 to local ABC affiliate, KTRK-TV.
"He knows I’m homosexual," Flowers said of Prine, who is also the Regional Political Director of the state’s chapter of the Republican National Committee. "He’s knows I’m married to a man and he knew that there’d be times my children may be alone with Jim if I have to run out to work."
In his interview with the news channel, Flowers related how he was married for "six or seven years" when he came out to his ex-wife, Lacey Flowers. They remained married for another five years, and then divorced. At that point, relations between them became strained.
Eventually, Flowers and his male partner, Jim Evans, wed in Connecticut and Flowers went to court in an attempt to gain full custody of his children, a 14-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin daughters. But the trial involved a jury, and the jury found against the gay men. That was when the judge issued his own injunction, which Flowers can only get around with his ex-wife’s written consent -- something he says she will never agree to in the case of his husband.
Neither Lacey Flowers nor Prine would comment for the KRTK story.
"Flowers and Evans say the judge is just punishing them for being gay," KRTK reported.
The blog at the Chronicle seemed to agree.
"Attorneys who practice family law in Texas point out that in cases of abuse, it is common for courts to prevent children from being alone with specific people," the blog posting said. "But those same lawyers say that they’ve never heard of a case in which a step-parent or long-term partner is permanently enjoined from being alone with his or her step-children when abuse is not even alleged, let alone proven.
"No lawyer consulted for this story has ever heard of an order which prohibits children from being left alone with an entire gender," the posting added.
"Stereotypes, misconceptions, bigotry and fear of lesbians, gays and their families abound," the blog went on to note, before quoting a lawyer, Jennifer Cochran, who said that the injunction was anti-gay "judicial activism."
A petition at social justice site Change.org calls for the injunction to be lifted.
Flowers has said that he will appeal the injunction. He and Evans say that the judge’s order interferes with their ability to conduct a "normal family life," news reports noted.