While Many Fight for Same-sex Marriage, Other’s Fight for Same-sex Divorce
As Illinois and Hawaii have been added to the list of states legalized marriage between same-sex couples, many states still deny the full spectrum of rights associated with marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships by denying non-traditional couples the right to divorce. To further complicate matters, there are states that do not allow same-sex marriage but allow same-sex divorce.
In 2008, Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham and her wife Dana Ann Melancon traveled from Mississippi, notoriously known as one of the most conservative states in America, to San Francisco, California to get married. Sadly, Czekala-Chatham and Melancon’s marriage did not work out. In September of 2013, Czekala-Chatham filed for a divorce in Mississippi’s DeSoto County.
According to ABC News in a report written by Holbrook Mohr of the Associated Press, Jim Hood, the Democrat Attorney General argued that Mississippi can’t grant a divorce in a marriage that it does not legally recognize because Mississippi “has no obligation to give effect to California laws that are contrary to Mississippi’s expressly stated public policy.” Czekala-Chatham and Melancon could go to California to get a divorce but Czekala-Chatham wants the same rights as a straight couple.
According to the Williams Institute, a branch of UCLA law school, which handles and studies legal cases on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, when states do not look into divorce or dissolution of same-sex marriages, sometimes, one member of the marriage will have to meet residency requirements for the state recognizing the marriage before filing for a divorce. These states don’t allow same-sex marriage, but they force the couples to stay permanently married.
California has since removed its residency requirements and now states that as long as the couple is in agreement, they can be divorced in the state of California.
Czekala-Chatham will not settle for a divorce in California. She has a bigger goal in mind. “‘I think this can open the door to progress. If we can get Mississippi to recognize an out-of-state marriage, who knows what else they’ll recognize down the line? It’s a baby step,’ Czekala-Chatham told Huffington Post.
Although no such cases have risen in Virginia, gay marriage, civil unions, partnerships and gay divorce are not legally recognized here. “In every state, you’ve got to look and see what their statute is and how their constitutional amendments read…It really becomes a state by state issue. Like, what does the governing language in that state say? Then, depending on what it says, judges may feel that they have room to grant the divorce,” said Michael B. Hamar, a lawyer and gay rights activist based in Norfolk, Virginia.
Just last month, on November 5, The Texas Supreme Court heard a similar argument from two same sex couples, one from Dallas, the other from Austin, on same sex divorce. Texas, like Mississippi does not recognize same-sex marriage, therefore they don’t recognize same-sex divorces.”At least one same-sex couple has been able to get a divorce in a state that doesn’t officially recognize same-sex unions. In 2011, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that two women married in Canada could get a divorce in the state, reversing a ruling by a district judge,” wrote David Crary of Edge on the Net.
17 United States jurisdictions (16 states and the District of Columbia) recognize same-sex marriage but the fight isn’t over. Divorce is a detrimental portion of the gay rights and equal marriage fight and 29 states still have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.
“We hit it off really good and six months later he moved in. We respected each other, we did everything together.”May 2, 2017
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