Judge Tena Callahan made national headlines this month when she ruled that a Dallas gay couple could seek a divorce in Texas to terminate the marriage granted by the State of Massachusets.  See my prior post:  Dallas Judge:  Ban on Gay Marriage and Divorce Unconstitutional

Judge Callahan spoke publicly this week for the first time since her ruling at a meeting of the Dallas Stonewall Democrats.  The Dallas Voice reported on the meeting and her speech last night online Callahan: It’s always time to do the right thing by John Wright:

Judge Tena Callahan stood at the front of the room inside Ojeda’s Restaurant in Dallas on Tuesday, Oct. 20, and held up a small, red cloth bag.

Callahan said she has “millions” of bags like it, because they’re frequently given to judges and attorneys at legal seminars. She said she uses them for groceries and leaves them hanging over a chair in her dining room.

But Callahan said it was this particular bag — and the quotation printed on the back — that ultimately helped her muster the courage she needed to recently declare Texas’ marriage amendment unconstitutional.

“I was sitting at my dining room table and I was thinking, I’ve got to make this decision, I’ve got to rip this Band-Aid off and I’ve got to make this decision,” Callahan said, adding that she wasn’t struggling with the constitutional principle behind the ruling, but with the backlash she was sure to face.

“My dad always used to tell me that a billion people can believe in a bad idea, and it’s still a bad idea. And that man taught me to have the courage of my convictions and to do what’s right

— it’s always the right time to do the right thing. And as I’m sitting there and all this is going through my head, I’m looking at the back of this bag, and I went, ‘Oh my God, I just got my answer.’

“‘Let us have faith that right makes might,’” Callahan said, reading from the back of the bag, “and in that faith, let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it. — Abraham Lincoln.”

“I do my duty,” Callahan said. “That’s what you elected me to do.”
As Callahan concluded her brief remarks, fellow members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas gave her a standing ovation, just as they had when she took the microphone.

Judge Callahan also commented on the application of the U.S. Constitution:

“And when I got to reading the Constitution of the United States of America, which Texas is still a part of, I was never more sure of just how much you and I are the very same and how important it is that that constitution protect you, because if it doesn’t protect you, then it doesn’t protect me, and I want it to protect me,” she said.

“It’s not there to protect the majority. In a democracy, majority rules. Who needs the silly constitution when you’re ruling? But when you overreach, when you step out of your bounds, when you apply the same laws differently to people who are just the same, that’s what it’s there for. …

“It is a wonderful, living, breathing document, and it protects us all,” Callahan said.

Callahan said she was only doing her job when she issued the ruling and she credited those in the room with being “smart enough” to help elect her and other Democrats in 2006. She encouraged them to do “the right thing” again in 2010 by supporting Democratic candidates, including several who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

 Hat Tip to Kris for pointing me to this article!

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.