TEXAS: Court Recognizes Common Law Gay Marriage

Over the objections of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, last week a Travis County judge ruled that a lesbian and her late partner were in a common law marriage prior to the Obergfell ruling. The Austin American-Statesman reports:

Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman signed a judgment acknowledging that Stella Powell and Sonemaly Phrasavath met the legal requirements to be considered married even though their eight-year relationship did not include a marriage license. Herman’s order, signed Monday but distributed Tuesday, ended Phrasavath’s quest to have her relationship with Powell, who died last year, recognized as a marriage after Powell’s siblings filed a probate suit stating that she had died single because she could not marry another woman under Texas law. The ensuing legal fight over Powell’s estate mushroomed from a small family-law dispute into a proxy battle over same-sex marriage that involved gay-rights advocates and was strenuously opposed by Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton is weighing whether to appeal the decision.

Powell died before her will was signed and notarized, spurring her family to swoop in and try to wrestle the estate from her wife.

  • b

    Very decent and nice. How lucky we are to live in decent society. Texas is so much more than the sum of parts.

  • LADY MABELINE

    What a hateful and greedy family.

    • Duane Dimitrov

      Welcome to Texas!

      • DaddyRay

        This happened to my friend in San Francisco where the parents who kicked him out at 18 and did not speak to him for more than 20 years came in after his death and kicked out his lover and hauled out all of the possessions on a moving truck because his name was the only one on the lease

        • bdsmjack

          I had a friend whose bf died and fhe parents (who, up to this point were cool) swooped in and took everything –tv, stereo, car, all of it. My friend was left with nothing. The parents were well off and didn’t need another used appliance. It was very bizarre.

          • Octavio

            I dealt with two years of litigation, being sued by my dead lover’s nice mormon family from Burley, ID. Ended up having to sell, dispose, of everything and give them half. It was a bad time for me. And my partner’s family had kicked him out of their “loving christain” home when he was 18 and came out to them. They never spoke. He had nothing to do with them. But mormon judges think we queers are all icky and should be buried out in the Western Desert some where we won’t infect the rest of society. It’s all I can do not to drive up to Burley and burn that fucking family to the ground. But . . . well, karma. 🙁

          • bdsmjack

            Wow. I’m so sorry to hear that, Octavio. I can’t believe the hypocrisy of these people.

          • Octavio

            That was life in 1987. It has happened to many of us.

          • Octavio

            My partner’s step father insisted he’d had a “vision” revealing to him that it was necessary to swoop down and scam as much as possible, for I (being the older man) obviously tricked my lover into being gay and my “sex slave.” That last bit a term that was brought up in court many times. But they’re all in Burley, ID and bad things have happened to them since then. 🙂

          • b

            You had it bad, Octavio. But we are so glad about you)

          • Ginger Snap

            Karma se really can be a bitch and I hope she is putting it to them hard with icky butt sex!!

          • Jafafa Hots

            I think just living in Burley ID would be considered a pretty bad thing.

          • Octavio

            One good feature of the place is that they have regular earthquakes. 🙂

          • “bad things have happened to them” Praise!

          • Joe in PA

            damn, I am so sorry to hear that O. My husband’s rabid right-wing-nut-job mother (and a lot of the rest of the family as well) made us SUPER aware of what might happen, we had wills, powers of attorney etc, everything our attorney could think of to protect us. Again, sorry you had to endure that. Sigh.

          • GayOldLady

            And that’s why we needed marriage equality. There weren’t/aren’t enough legal instruments in the world to protect you from a court that refused to recognize the validity of your relationship.

          • stuckinthewoods

            Yes, we needed marriage equality because marriage is a legal instrument. But we also have to use the legal instruments all citizens have, such as preparing wills or trusts. To expect the law to recognize any relationship (gay or straight) a person has not done the minimum to support is to expect s “special right”. We know that ain’t gonna happen. I’ve found a surprising number of people haven’t done any prep. For that absence the law has a flow chart of who inherits – and it favors genetics. It’s that simple. Your assertion that legal instruments are ineffective is not my experience.

          • Clara Rogers

            my collaborator’s stride mother makes $97/hr on the web…….…..Last weekend I Bought A Brand new McLaren F1 after earning $18,512,this was my last month’s paycheck ,and-a little over, $17k last-month .No-doubt about it, this really is the most comfortable work I have ever had . I began this 8-months ago and pretty much immediately was bringing home at least $97, p/h……..L.earn More right Here.
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          • SFHarry

            True marriage equality is great but it doesn’t settle the problem in all situations. One may not be married to someone and still want them to have their assets rather than their family for a number of reasons. You may have a longtime loyal friend, an organization or group you support or any of many other situations. EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A WILL WRITTEN. Protect your loved ones today.

          • Octavio

            Be sure to get married. Kenji and I had everything tightened up in wills, directives, and putting all real estate in both our names. But back then the eighth removed third cousin of his great great uncle had more claim to our estates than we did. Plus, we lived in Utah at the time. Not a nice place in many respects, especially when one is gay. Good skiing, though. With equal marriage most of this shit should no longer happen. Get married.

          • Steve Teeter

            We are getting married, he and I, though we haven’t set a date. But about the first thing we’ll do once the ceremony is over is go back to our lawyer and revise our wills from top to bottom. And check on things like real estate. Even car ownership. We’ll try to leave nothing to chance. And this is though we both have families that are totally loving and supportive of us. But as I said, leave nothing to chance.

          • stuckinthewoods

            You are sensible to do those things. We hear horror stories but sometimes they include (or don’t specify) that there were no written documents at all. That relies on the benevolence of the deceased’s family. That is no plan. During the height of the AIDS deaths what reason could there have been for not addressing this? I think the stories we hear may have back stories. For example, my own current husband and I are on opposite ends of that spectrum. His deceased partner had no will. He inherited nothing but I know there was tension in that relationship. My partner made a will, even bought me a house to go to. The will prevailed. We currently live in the house he provided.
            Straight people have been disliking their own relatives for a long time. We’re not unique in that. I was told there were only two persons who could summarily invalidate a legal will (unnamed current spouse and unnamed minor child) but any other challenge had to be supported by more than greed. I opposed my 3rd partner’s brother in his estate. I opposed the State of Virginia in my 1st partner’s estate. I won both. Do the homework. As you said, leave nothing to chance.

          • Octavio

            Even though you’ll mutually own everything in joint tenancy, that’s still a good idea. Give “them” no way to wheedle in and cause trouble.

          • Joe in PA

            Thanks. yup, got that covered.

          • GayOldLady

            Octavio: I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I know many of our brothers & sisters have dealt with similar family situations at the death of their partner. I can only imagine how devastating it was for you to lose your partner, then to have to fight to keep what you both worked for. I hope karma is real, at least long enough to kick those greedy people in the ass.

          • Octavio

            Thanks, but there is no justice. Life is not fair. You can’t depend upon others. Everyone is out to get us. The only protection is to be pro active and strike first. 🙂

          • Ginger Snap

            “Icky and should be buried out in the western desert” I’d like to recommend a book A Cry In The Desert. It was written in the hight of the AIDS epidemic and what you said reflects what was written. It also touches on some other fears we had at the time and reads almost like a horror story.

          • CPT_Doom

            I’m still so glad my great-uncle, who had the same male “roommate” for 40 years, had my Nana as his closest living relative when he passed. Not only did she honor his will, leaving everything to his partner, but as her brother was dying, she threatened to discharge him from the hospital against medical advice because the hospital refused to recognize his partner as kin (this was 1988) and tried to bar him from the hospital. Although to her dying day Nana would not admit her brother was gay, she was like a mother cat protecting her kittens when they tried to stop his partner from being at his side. She not only threatened to discharge him & find a hospital that would treat his wishes with respect, she told the hospital she would call every TV station, newspaper and radio station to cover the transfer of a terminally ill man solely due to bigotry. She was good people RIP.

          • Ninja0980

            Not bizarre at all.
            Pure spite and bigotry is why they did it.

          • bdsmjack

            It was bizarre because they had been so kind to their son’s partner and to all of their friends.

            When their son was dying, he moved back into their home in Iowa. They let all us friends come visit and stay in their house and treated us all like guests in a hotel.

            It just didn’t make sense that they could turn so cold hearted. I actually had to give my friend some dishes because they took those, too.

            I offered to intervene on my friend’s behalf (I thought the parents were so grief stricken they didn’t realize what they had done). But my friend didn’t allow me to do that.

          • b

            It is strange. But you are well now.

          • Ninja0980

            Sometimes only death can show a person’s true nature.

          • Steve Teeter

            It’s been said that you never really know your relatives until you try and share an inheritance.

          • William

            I like to make the mental image of my Aunt’s ample backside wriggling out the bathroom window of our great Aunt’s house. The lawyer handling the estate drove up on that scene and reported it to all the heirs.

          • William

            Sick fucking people.

          • Todd20036

            Money can do funny things to people. But I’m not laughing.

            My pension has my partner as the beneficiary. It supersedes any will.

            Everyone in my family was VERY unhappy over that.

            I tried to get an extension grafted on my middle finger so I could give an appropriately sized “fuck you” to them, but insurance didn’t cover that.

          • Chris Baker

            Yeah, money and stuff do strange things. I don’t get it. (Not that I don’t like stuff and money). But fighting over a few hundred dollars of stuff. My dad passed away a few years ago and all I really wanted were some of his tools. His router and biscuit cutter. Cause they were useful and reminded me of him.

          • Milennial

            What’s a “pension”?

          • Todd20036

            Retirement income. Some private companies provide a benefit for you after you retire based on your salary and service. It’s also called a “defined benefit pension” because you know how much your benefit will be regardless as to how the economy does.

            This contrasts with “defined contribution” plans where you know exactly how much you contribute to the plan, but your final benefit depends on how well your investments do.

        • b

          Thank you both; for your perseverance and kindness.

        • Duane Dimitrov

          Lovely people.

      • I have a friend who had this happen to him (in the early 90s) in Pennsylvania. There are greedy homophobic families in other states too (though I won’t deny that we have more than our fair share here in Texas).

    • Marides48

      Vultures!

    • Hateful & greedy, check! “Powell died before her will was signed
      and notarized, spurring her family to swoop in and try to wrestle the
      estate from her wife.” It’s refeshing, isnt it, JMGers, to see some of these endless sick grabs quashed.!?

      • William

        Let’s hope the spirit of this ruling drifts over to Alabama and that nasty mother.

  • delk

    Hey Ken, don’t you have felony charges of security fraud to worry about instead of wasting state money on your bigotry?

  • clay

    I knew the former frontier had one more thing to say on the subject! Yeah, girls!

  • bkmn

    That’s a nice F/U for Paxton.

    • ericxdc

      …and for those members of the Powell family who tried to steal her estate from her wife.

  • The Professor

    Felon said whaaaa?

  • Octavio

    Good for Ms. Phrasavath. Having dealt with this exact situation (vulture relatives of a dead partner) I hope she’s left in peace to continue with her life. If were all lucky Attorney General Paxton will pass peacefully in his sleep soon. It’s one of my precatory prayers that he will. 🙂

    • Mark

      I’ll pray that bubba breaks him a little rough in the Collin County jail house.

  • vorpal

    What a lovely couple. Condolences to Ms. Phrasavath for her loss :(.
    I’m glad that Ms. Powell’s family has basically been told to sit down and STFU.

  • I wonder if that family helped take care of Ms. Powell, or did they leave the unpleasant part to Ms. Prasavanth?

  • StraightGrandmother

    Now days you gotta put a ring on that finger, we have legal marriage. If you decide not to marry and decide not to make a will you are saying, “This person I am with is not to be an heir of my estate”

    Good for Sonemaly, I feel sorry for her though having lost her wife.

    • DaddyRay

      When you are young you never think about these things but you should

      • Sam_Handwich
        • Joe in PA

          I wish BillBear would do that to me. 🙂

          • Claude Jacques Bonhomme

            Bite into you?

          • BlueberriesForMe

            Gently. :=) (While playing Mozart in the background).

        • DaddyRay

          Aww I could just eat you up

          • Miji

            Seems that this bear could do the same if it were so inclined; looks like a mighty flimsy fence.

          • DaddyRay

            Waving is how we lure them to come over to our side of the fence

    • Circ09

      Texas still has strong common law marriage laws on the books, gay marriage or not. I don’t see that changing any time soon because the straights want to keep it. Go figure.

    • GayOldLady

      That’s exactly why my wife and I married ASAP. She has a sister who would absolutely swoop down like a vulture if anything was to happen to her. The saddest part about it is that her sister is 70 years old. We’re all old and still she refuses to accept our 31 year relationship. My partner and I have had wills, powers of attorney, owned real property in both of our names, but our Attorney warned us that there was no way to predict what would happen in court if one of us was to die.

      • Silver Badger

        Your attorney is right. I won’t bore you with AIDS survivor stories. They are pretty grim. When my partner died, his mom (a good christian lady) tried to stir up trouble, but we had all the paperwork in place. It’s funny, if she had come to Denver when I offered to pay her way, she could have had him buried in Nebraska as she wanted. Instead, she told me that “he made his bed”. So I followed his last wishes to a T and buried him on the reservation in South Dakota.

        • GayOldLady

          I know a few of the AIDS stories about families that behaved poorly. Those memories still bring me tears. No one who is burying their partner should have to deal with the hateful family members of their loved one. I’m glad you were able to fulfill his final wishes.

          • RoFaWh

            “Poorly” is far too weak a word to describe some of the behavior I’ve read about.

          • Steve Teeter

            My partner’s final wishes are all taken care of. He signed up with the Neptune Society, and when he dies, all I’ll need to do is call 911 to report the death, as the law requires, then call the Neptune Society. They will come, take his remains, observe the legalities, including filling in and filing all the forms that otherwise I might have to deal with. And then, when the law allows, he will be cremated and his ashes scattered over the waters of Lake Pontchartrain.

            And this is all paid for in advance. At the most difficult time of my life, that’s one thing I won’t have to worry about.

          • stuckinthewoods

            I had made those arrangements with the Cremation Society of Virginia for mine. Otherwise that time would have been even harder. In your case, with your partner himself being signatory he has given you the comfort of knowing his wishes will be respected without you having to take care of it. I admire him for that. Best wishes to you both.

      • JustSayin’

        I am sure you have this in place but for others, besides the documents she lists make sure any real property you wish your spouse to inherit includes an escrowed quit claim deed in their favor. Make it specific to being post your death.

        This is an alternate bypass in any state if someone challenges the will in probate. Other wise jointly held property could legally be. Construed as the estate owns half and if a judge screws with you they could tie it up for years and cost you a fortune in legal fees. With a quit claim in the surfing spouses favor, they can exercise title even before probate starts. Then the haters have to prove that you did not have right to exercise the quit claim before they can contest the will.

        In the best of all worlds the majority of real property and assets is held in a joint ownership trust with the surviving spouse as the trustee and the executor.

        The challenge to all this of course is undoing things if you divorce.

      • RoFaWh

        Human nature being what it is, a melancholy prediction: in spite of your marriage and all the legal doo-wah, your wife’s sister will still swoop down like a vulture and try to grab whatever she can.

        If your wife dies before you do, two things to do immediately:

        1. Have the locks changed on your house.

        2. Hire 24 hr security if there’s any hint of funny business.

      • stuckinthewoods

        I had no problem with properly written wills. I was executor three times, trustee twice and beneficiary in four of those. Although challenge attempts were made against estates in 1988 and 1994 they failed. You’ll be okay.

        • GayOldLady

          Thank you, we feel better about our property being protected since we’ve married, but as you advised we do have all the other legal documents.

      • William

        A trust is far more secure than a wil, and much more difficult to contest.

  • Not every state allow for common-law marriages, and Obergfell doesn’t change that, but it should be patently obvious to anyone who never even went to law school that under Obergfell, same-sex couples are to be afforded the same rights and responsibilities of opposite-sex couples.

    • JustSayin’

      Challenge here is that death occurred pre-obergefel ruling. The hateful family was trying to exploit that as a reason to snatch estate. They lost haha

      • Reality.Bites

        But remember – the bans were NEVER legal, not suddenly illegal after June.

        Obviously a couple couldn’t get legally married earlier because no one would give them a license, but a common-law relationship was always valid, just not recognized.

  • Make a will! Every one, make a will or a trust. I don’t have a spouse and I’m on good terms with my family, but I’ve seen how greed can turn people. I’ve seen loving siblings fight over the administration of an estate. In my case, I want half my property to go to my parents and half to go to go to two dear friends who are like family to me, and whom I partially support. Having a will gives me some peace of mind that they’ll be okay if I’m suddenly gone. (All four are also equal beneficiaries of my life insurance.)

    My best friend doesn’t have a will, and his parents and grandparents are dead. He doesn’t have a lot, but he has some rare collectible toys worth probably $10,000+. If he doesn’t do a will, it will be a total mess for the state to figure out which distant cousins get which ones.

    • Silver Badger

      Unless the state just takes it all.

      • JustSayin’

        State cannot take it all unless cousins /relatives either refuse to respond to state inquiry verifying relationship or the tell the state they don’t want the estate.

        No estate taxes on less than $5 million value.

        • Silver Badger

          Nationwide or just in your state?

  • Silver Badger

    Colorado has pretty liberal common law marriage laws. Be warned!

  • SFBruce

    Losing one’s 52-year-old spouse suddenly must be a terrible blow. But Ms. Phrasavath also had to deal with Ms. Powell’s family who decided to swoop in, not to support Ms. Phrasavath in their shared grief, but to collect their “stuff.” I hope this outcome is some small comfort to Ms. Phrasavath.

  • Buford

    Reminds me of the old joke about the fella who got sick of the crazy, nutter politics in Texas, so he decided to move as far away from Texas as he could…

    … he moved to Austin.

  • rednekokie

    Lots of those scumbags live in Texas. Why is anyone surprised?

  • Ninja0980

    When people ask why marriage equality matters, stories like this and what some posters have shared with us is one reason why.
    You can have all the contracts you can afford, all the wills typed and it still wasn’t enough in many cases.
    There were many bigoted judges who only too happy to side with the bigoted or greedy family members and ensure the surviving half of a same sex couple was left high and dry.
    In other cases, like in VA and MI etc, the bans ensured that contracts couldn’t be honored because they resembled marriage.
    Marriage and only marriage grants us protection from heartbreaking stories like this and want some of you shared.
    I’m thankful this woman can now fully mourn her spouse without dealing with the bigoted family members anymore.

  • JCF

    {{{Sonemaly}}}

    Justice is a poor second-best to the love of your WIFE, but I’m glad you’ve got that anyway…

  • Christopher Smith

    A classic TEX-ASS ‘family.’

  • Ginger Snap

    Love wins again and all the family has is their hate.

    • Claude Jacques Bonhomme

      As long as the State, i.e. Asshole General Paxton, doesn’t appeal…

      http://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site525/2015/0803/20150803_102927_83b902be9d240f227e0f6a706700d12a_200.jpg

      The Face of Hate.

      • Ginger Snap

        He probably will but we have love and the law and the public on our side now. They still only have their hate, so very sad.

        • Claude Jacques Bonhomme

          We do have love and the law, but let’s not forget that Texas is the state that turned its back on Wendy Davis, and the protection of women’s reproductive health services, voting instead for Abbott. I have a feeling that the state will delay this as long as it can.

      • BlueberriesForMe

        It’s such a strange photo. LIke he had a stroke. Maybe it was taken after the SC decision.

        • William

          The term is Schadenstupid.

      • William

        Add a photo of Greg Abbott. He’s one of the biggest haters in Texas.

  • William

    Oh crap, does this mean that my partner and I are married after 18 years together? Shouldn’t we at least get a cake?

    Either way, best wishes to Sonemaly in her legal victory. Eight years together is not enough.

  • TheManicMechanic

    Finally some good news from Texas.

  • david fairfield

    Paxton relishes being a bully. He delights in making things difficult for gay folks, AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY!!!!! there is a lot of no good bullshit going on behind the scenes as well as at the forefront of his office. He abuses his power and is relentless in his agenda. And he does this while he is being grilled on several fraud charges…he just doesn’t care, and thinks he is infallible. I will be so glad when he is taken down.

  • txscotty39

    Death brings out the very worst in some survivors.

  • Mouthful

    Over the objections of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is currently under indictment for securities fraud, and who previously pled guilty and paid a fine for “administrative violations” regarding similar charges, and who was recently called into court to explain why his office should not be held in contempt of court for improperly denying marriage recognition, …….

  • Clara Rogers

    my collaborator’s stride mother makes $97/hr on the web…….…..Last weekend I Bought A Brand new McLaren F1 after earning $18,512,this was my last month’s paycheck ,and-a little over, $17k last-month .No-doubt about it, this really is the most comfortable work I have ever had . I began this 8-months ago and pretty much immediately was bringing home at least $97, p/h……..L.earn More right Here.
    qc……………….
    ➤➤
    ➤➤➤➤ http://www.googlefeedbuzzmoneybestusamonyumfbg25.blogspot.com/ ❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦

    .