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Texas jury rules gay couple had a “common law marriage”

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Obergefell v. Hodges, which ruled all existing laws prohibiting same-sex marriage in the United States to be unconstitutional, last week’s decision marks the first time a jury in Texas has made such a finding with regard to a divorce action.The plaintiff, Christopher Hoffman, filed for divorce from his former partner, Moises Ortiz, in 2019, claiming that although the two had not legally wed, they had been involved in a common law marriage for more than 20 years.

Hoffman’s lawyers claimed the two were married based on how the Texas Family Code defines common law marriages, while Ortiz’s lawyers argued that no such marital arrangement existed, and that he and Hoffman were “simply roommates that acted as partners.”In a pre-trial hearing on July 30, 2019, Judge Mary Lou Alvarez, of the 45th District Court of Bexar Count, ,found that Ortiz’s claim that he and Hoffman were just roommates to be “incredulous testimony,” according to Out in SA.

As a result, Alvarez issued a temporary order requiring Ortiz — the primary wage-earner in the relationship — pay Hoffman $1,200 a month for interim spousal support until a jury could determine whether indeed the two had been part of a common law marriage.Justin Nichols, an attorney for Hoffman from the San Antonio-based Nichols Law Firm, told Metro Weekly in an interview that proving a common law marriage can be difficult, and even many of the jurors were initially confused about what constituted a common law marriage, believing that it required living together for a set amount of time.

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