After Same-Sex Marriage, Same-Sex Divorce?


Although the rights for same-sex couples to marry may not extend to all states of the USA at the moment, there are still questions arising from the topic which will be discussed even in the states where same-sex marriage is not permitted. Once the first state allowed same-sex marriage – Massachusetts in 2004, it will not have taken long for the first joke to be cracked about equal divorce rights for same sex couples. It is a fact that, just as opposite-sex couples split up and occasionally divorce, so the same happens in same sex relationships. And where same sex couples can marry, they may also get divorced.

In Massachusetts, the principle of same sex divorce is much the same as that in existence for other married couples, but same sex divorce cases are only heard in the state if the couple are resident there. The only exception to this is that couples from outside the state can file for divorce if the action which led to the divorce – an extra-marital affair, for example – took place in the state. This is a situation that, at present, is quite unique to Massachusetts. As same sex marriage is added to the statute books in other states, the divorce procedure in those states will develop. Where it is still illegal, the marriage is not recognized anyway – but regulations differ state by state as to whether the couples can divorce.

Many states get around the question of how to divorce a couple whose marriage is not officially recognized by performing annulments instead. With an annulment, the argument is that the marriage never existed in the first place, so there is no need for a divorce. All that is happening, in effect, is that the state is making official the “fact” that the marriage never existed. As much as some of the original comments about same sex divorce may have been intended in jest it seems likely that, as time goes on, the question will arise seriously as the time comes where more states are prepared to consecrate same sex relationships.

Elsewhere in the world the topic of same-sex marriage is one that has also raised some debate. Two of the more recent countries to fully legalize same-sex marriage, Sweden and Norway, have seen higher divorce rates for same-sex couples than for opposite sex marriages. Although often seized upon as a reason for opposition to same-sex unions, it has been pointed out that this statistic may have more to do with same-sex couples not being involved in joint biological parenthood, as well as a more typically liberal view on divorce, than any defect in the institution. It has in fact been posited that, where all the other variables are equal, same-sex couples in a committed relationship are indistinguishable from their mixed sex counterparts.

The issue of same sex-marriage is one that will continue to be discussed, especially as it appears that younger generations have a more permissive attitude to same sex relationships, and that as time goes on same-sex marriage will be more widely adopted.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

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Melissa M Gordon



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