What Happens When They Won’t Let You Get Divorced?

Written by scott on February 25th, 2013

Kevin & Sam

This week’s New York Magazine takes a look at what happens when gay and lesbian couples fall in love, get married, grow apart, and then find that they can’t get divorced. The article starts off with the story of Kevin and Sam:

Until recently, Kevin Muir and Sam Ritchie could have been poster boys for marriage equality: a gay couple so solid and beamish it would seem just plain ornery to keep them from the altar. Their entire lives together had been pointing toward legal union, in exactly the kinds of ways most people would find normal and completely unthreatening.

They married as soon as they were able to, in Massachusetts:

That quest culminated on May 28, 2004, eleven days after Massachusetts became the first state to open civil marriage to same-sex couples, when Kevin and Sam stood before a justice of the peace in a restaurant across the street from Newton City Hall and solemnly uttered an updated version (through prosperity or adversity, on this day, and for the rest of your lives) of the traditional vows.

Things went well for the young couple for a number of years, and then they discovered that they wanted different things from a family:


“Kevin’s picture was very much like the white picket fence and the house on Long Island,” Sam says. “And I was very much going to have the urban kid.” This difference echoed contrasting lifestyle preferences–Sam wanting to go out on weekends, Kevin wanting to stay home–that they had previously finessed. But after years of compromising, they found themselves no longer as flexible with each other, and those preferences kept turning into arguments.

Many couples like Kevin and Sam end up trapped, because even states that have no residency requirement for marriage have one for divorce:

But, by and large, even if states have no residency requirement to marry, they do have a residency requirement to divorce”–meaning that if you live in Georgia but married in California during its twenty-week “marriage window” in 2008, you can’t get divorced in Georgia, which does not recognize your marriage anyway, and you probably can’t get divorced in California either, unless you take up residency there, perhaps for as long as a year. The vast majority of couples can’t afford or even arrange that, especially if they’re feuding.

It’s a great article that explains why “gay divorce” is as important a rights issue as “gay marriage” for our community, even if we don’t really want to talk about it. ┬áRead the whole thing if you can.


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