Friday, December 10, 2004

Repent in Leisure

Complications from Massachusetts same-sex marriage will surely bubble up very soon. So far, local judges have managed to avoid the thorniest issue.

In today's Boston Globe, columnist Brian McGrory cites the first few divorce cases after the legalization. There aren't many, but the potential problem is there. Courts in other states should turn down divorce requests from same-sex couples. Otherwise, they are recognizing same-sex marriage in their states.

The possible example he includes was of two men who married in Gloucester in the first week same-sex marriages were allowed. One lives in the Boston area and one in D.C. A Massachusetts judge took jurisdiction of their divorce filing, avoiding the problem.

However, Richard Iannella, the Suffolk county register of probate, predicts that will not always be the case, particularly if the couple both live out of state. As McGrory writes:

Under his reading of the law, any couple living out-of-state at the time of their divorce is required by Massachusetts statute to seek the divorce in the closest jurisdiction. But other states will refuse to recognize gay marriage, meaning they won't grant a divorce.

Because one party lived in Washington, Iannella sought a judge's guidance before pushing ahead with the filing. The judge accepted jurisdiction, but in other cases it may not be so clear.


So there aren't many. As predicted, the initial same-sex marriages were mostly long-term couples who have a high chance of staying married. It only takes one exception per state to kick resulting divorce proceedings into court, as it only takes a single married couple moving to another state and suing for recognition of their marriage there.

Certainly to be continued...

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