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1st Same Sex Divorce Case Headed To North Texas Court

NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - A Tarrant County woman is challenging the Texas laws on divorce – as it relates to same-sex marriage. Currently the only way two women, or two men can legally split in Texas is to have the marriage voided.

Cori Jo Long is prepared to take her fight for divorce to the highest court. Long married Brooke Powell in 2010 in New Hampshire.  The two women are both from North Texas, but married out of state because of the ban in Texas on same-sex marriage.

Last summer, the pair separated, but Texas law does not allow them to divorce.

A heterosexual married couple can apply for divorce, and if the requirements are met, the divorce can be granted as quickly as 60 days. Same-sex couples can petition to have their marriage voided in Texas – but the entitlements are not the same as with divorce.

"When you are not given an option to be divorced, then you don't have any of the rights that a divorced couple would possibly have," said Long.

Sonya Carillo is Long's attorney, and explains why Long does not want to void the marriage.

"She'd have no property rights, no benefits under state law and no benefits under federal law. When you're married for a certain period of time, you get certain benefits under social security. Certain retirement benefits are available.  If the court voids the marriage, she does not get anything. It's like it never happened. You were never married."

Powell's attorney, Susan Smith says Powell was comfortable with petitioning to have the marriage voided. "It's the more practical route," she said.

Smith says her client would have divorced if it was an option, but prefers to move forward on her own, as the Texas state laws dictate.

"If you live in Texas, you kind of have to be okay with that. I know there are groups out there advocating for change.  [Powell] would like to see the law change, but until then, she's just living in Texas because this is where her heart is and where her family is," said Smith.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has fought same-sex couple divorces in other counties.  He argues that state law won't allow Texas to recognize the divorce, because it would validate the marriage.

Right now the Texas Supreme Court is reviewing a handful of same-sex divorce cases.

Long hopes her voice will be heard as well, and is prepared to appeal if necessary. "Because it gives me a voice and it gives me a stance on who I am and where I'm coming from, and that I got married for a reason."

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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