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Tag: marriage

The Only Answer is Full Marriage Equality…Nationally

by Brian Leubitz

A while back, I mentioned the Dallas, TX court that is considering ruling on a same-sex divorce. The Texas Attorney General is fighting against granting the divorce, apparently believing that allowing gay couples to break up will lead to … more gay couples? Or something.

But that’s hardly the only case of this injustice. Throughout the nation, the thousands upon thousands of couples that have married in states where marriage equality is the state of the law are now facing a tough decision. If they leave the state, will their marriage still be recognized? Will they be able to dissolve that marriage?

The problem here is that only the state you actually reside in has jurisdiction to grant a divorce. Now, if you are in a state that has gone ahead and preemptively struck against equality (I’m looking at you, Texas, the land of my formative years), you have some serious issues. You can’t get a divorce in Texas, because you have the bigoted AG telling the courts that such a divorce would be unacceptable. You can’t get divorced in Massachusetts because they don’t have authority to grant the divorce. Your options, ironic as this might be, are pretty limited to being stuck in the marriage.

Now, California will actually grant divorces for all marriages performed in the summer of equality, 2008. The courts, under legislation recently authored by Sen. Mark Leno and signed by the governor, will honor out of state marriages performed before Nov. 5, 2008. So, if you fall into one of those two categories, you are good. Got married in Massachusettes in 2009? Well, who knows what is going to happen. My guess, and this is only a guess, is that there would be no problem here. But, if there is, why, it’s a doozy:

While the District and five states have legalized same-sex marriage and consequently allow divorces, granting same-sex divorce elsewhere is often murky. As married same-sex couples cross into states that explicitly ban or don’t recognize gay marriage, they face a dilemma.

“Be careful what you ask for,” says Jacobs, who consults and represents gay couples considering marriage. Jacobs married his partner in Connecticut in 2009. “When you break up, you may have a nasty fight in a court with no rules.”
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Last month, an Texas divorce case involving a lesbian couple, Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, made headlines. A judge granted the couple a divorce in March, but the state has a constitutional amendment, passed in 2005, that defines marriage as a union between “a man and a woman.”

The judge ruled the constitutional amendment violated the federal Equal Protection Act of the U.S. Constitution. The lesbian couple had been married in Massachusetts in 2004, where gay marriage is legal.

In a way, the divorce issue puts the problems of marriage inequality into an even more stark light. DOMA, despite the President’s lack of courage on the matter, must be repealed. He caved on DADT for the year, how about we get one of our legislative priorities? Anybody holding their breath on that?

60 Comments May 3, 2010

One More Piece of Evidence Why Marriage Matters

by Brian Leubitz

On Christmas day in Missouri, tragedy struck the family of Missouri state trooper Dennis Engelhard. He was helping a motorist stuck in the snow, and was killed by a car that lost control and hit him. He was 49 when he died.

A sad story, to be sure, but what came next must have felt like a slap in the face to his family.

When Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard was killed in a Christmas Day traffic accident near Eureka, the agency described him as single with no children. Gov. Jay Nixon called on Missourians to pray for Engelhard’s family, who “lost a beloved son and brother.”

Neither statement tells the whole story.

Engelhard, hit by a car that lost control in the snow, was gay. He left behind a partner of nearly 15 years who was not mentioned in his obituary or official information released by the Highway Patrol, although members of the agency knew about his sexual orientation. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

The state also denied his partner the normal pension benefits that would have come to the spouse. And then to top it all off, the newspaper blogs around the state write things like this:

In their defense, officials say they’ve never paid benefits to long-term girlfriends, boyfriends, etc. of straight troopers, either. The rule has always been that benefits go to a spouse.

This is why marriage matters. These two men had been together for fifteen years, and then some blogger has the temerity to say that their relationship wasn’t as important because they weren’t spouses? Perhaps he might not have been in Missouri in 2004 when the people of the state, in all their infinite wisdom choose to write discrimination into their constitution. I’ll cut him that much slack, because to assume otherwise would indicate an uncaring and painfully flippant response to the loss of one’s rightful spouse.

It’s hard to argue that these two men were any less deserving of acknowlegment than Brittney Spears 2-day marriage, or John McCain’s or Newt Gingrich’s 3rd marriage. This is a concrete and devastating example of why marriage equality is necessary.

Here’s hoping that the family, perhaps assisted by AFER or some other organization, can put together a case in federal court challenging Missouri’s marriage ban. You could hardly argue there are better facts for the case, and perhaps the cases will meet up for appelate review sometime in the future.

102 Comments January 30, 2010