By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com August 23 2011 2:20 PM ET
Some family law experts are astounded by a Houston judge’s order in a custody case — it forbids a gay man to leave his children alone with his husband.
Harris County associate judge Charley E. Prine Jr. issued the order in June, but it’s been spotlighted more recently in a column by Geoff Berg for a Houston Chronicle blog. In the column, published Monday, Berg notes that Prine’s directive prevents William Flowers from leaving his children alone with any man not related to them by blood or adoption — including his husband, Jim Evans, whom he married last year in Connecticut.
The order came after Flowers sued for custody of the three children he fathered with his former wife. The couple divorced in 2004, and they agreed at that time that she should have custody. Flowers changed his mind and took the matter to court; a jury decided that custody should remain with his ex-wife, but he could continue his regular visits with the children. Prine then issued his order, which Flowers plans to appeal.
“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,” Berg wrote.
He wondered if the order was motivated by “utterly false” beliefs about gay people, saying, “Is it possible that Judge Prine believes that the children’s step-father or another gay man is more likely than a heterosexual to molest the kids or turn them into brainwashed zombie drag queens? Because the case is still pending and citing the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, Judge Prine declined to comment. But lawyers who practice family law in Houston (and requested anonymity) described the order as patently anti-gay.”
An Austin family law attorney, Jennifer Cochran, was willing to be quoted, and she concurred. She told Berg the order is “just not reasonable” and “strikes at the very heart of the fact that [Flowers is] gay ... it’s judicial activism, legislating from the bench.”