January 21st, 2015
A Kentucky judge has granted the state’s first same-sex divorce, despite a state law banning the recognition of gay marriage.
Judge Joseph O’Reilly allowed the divorce of two Louisville women who were legally married in Massachusetts. This is the first ruling of its kind in the state of Kentucky.
Kentucky’s law does not recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in any other state; however, O’Reilly ruled that disallowing same-sex couples to divorce violates a Kentucky constitutional law granting equal rights of all people.
In O’Reilly’s eight-page ruling that dissolved the marriage of Alysha Romero and Rebecca Sue Romero, the judge also said that Kentucky divorce law mandates it to be “liberally construed” to encourage “amicable settlements” of disagreements between spouses.
Alysha Romero said she was happy that she and her former spouse would not have to incur the expense of travelling to Massachusetts to obtain a legal divorce.
“I am happy the judge made the right decision,” she said.
Romero’s lawyer, Louis Waterman, added, “I am just thrilled with Judge O’Reilly’s courage. I think he had a lot of chutzpah to do what he did.”
Douglas Haynes, Rebecca Romero’s attorney, said his client was also pleased with the decision but declined to further comment.
O’Reilly issued the ruling on December 29, but apparently waiting to release his statement to the public so his verdict was final and could not be challenged, according to Waterman. The decision cannot be appealed and is now precedent in Jefferson County. While the ruling can be cited, it is not governing in other cases across Kentucky.
Kentucky law states marriage of same-sex couples in another jurisdiction “shall be void” in the state, and that all rights allowed “by virtue of the marriage, or its termination, shall be unenforceable in Kentucky courts.”
Waterman argued that the denial of a same-sex divorce inconsistently impedes on the state’s prohibition of gay marriage by allowing one to continue.
The Romeros married in Boston in 2009; they moved to Kentucky in 2011. Their divorce was filed in 2013.
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