Gay couples in the state of Texas cannot get divorced, an appeal court has ruled.

The case concerns a gay couple who wed in Massachusetts in 2007 and then returned to Dallas.

Texas does not recognise same-sex marriage and has a constitutional amendment explicitly banning the practice.

A judge granted them a divorce last October but the decision is being contested by attorney-general Greg Abbott.

Dallas district court judge Tena Callaghan had ruled in favour of the gay couple and argued that she did have the jurisdiction to rule on the case.

However, the 5th Texas Court of Appeals ruled that she did not have jurisdiction and order that the case be returned to her for her to vacate her order.

The judgment said: “A person does not and cannot seek a divorce without simultaneously asserting the existence and validity of a lawful marriage.

“Texas law, as embodied in our constitution and statutes, requires that a valid marriage must be a union of one man and one woman, and only when a union comprises one man and one woman can there be a divorce under Texas law.”

Mr Abbott’s spokesman Jerry Strickland said: “Today’s court of appeals decision overruled the district court’s improper ruling, confirmed the constitutionality of Texas’ traditional definition of marriage and correctly found that Texas courts lack the legal authority to grant divorces to same-sex couples.”

In the last year, Mr Abbott has said that allowing the gay couple to divorce would create a “faulty precedent” in state law.

The couple, named only as JB and HB, separated amicably after being married for two years. Their lawyers say that they are not experiencing problems dividing their property but simply wanted an official divorce, as they felt their marriage was valid.

JB and HB’s lawyers have not yet said whether they will appeal the latest ruling.