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Arguments for Rhode Island Gay Divorce Heard in State Supreme Court

(Total Divorce) October 25, 2007 - Back in May, we detailed the story of a lesbian couple who was married in Massachusetts and now wants a Rhode Island divorce, and here's the latest news on this interesting legal case.

Divorce lawyers for the couple, Cassandra Ormiston and Margaret Chambers, spoke in front of the Rhode Island Supreme Court last week, essentially arguing that lesbian couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples to divorce in the state.

In May of 2004, Ormiston and Chambers were married in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is of course legal. They now live in Rhode Island, where they filed for divorce last year. Rhode Island does not have a law allowing gay marriage, thus raising the question of whether it can grant a divorce to a gay couple.

With this history established, the Rhode Island divorce lawyers for the couple asked the state Supreme Court to consider whether the state can recognize the validity of a same-sex marriage from another state with the sole motivation to grant a divorce.

Louis Pulner, a divorce attorney for Chambers, specifically noted to the judges how the women are not asking the state to make same-sex marriage legal in Rhode Island.

Ormiston asserted that if Rhode Island can not grant her a divorce, then her only option is to move to Massachusetts and establish residency there in order to end her marriage. However, Ormiston called such a possibility an "unfair burden" on gay people and said that she would be unwilling to take such an action.

Her divorce lawyer, Nancy Palmisciano, wondered how Rhode Island can recognize without question heterosexual marriages from other counties, states and even countries as being valid and not do the same for lesbian couples married somewhere else.

Earlier this year, Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch offered a nonbinding advisory opinion stating that the state would recognize gay marriages in Massachusetts and could do so without having to change its marriage laws.

However, both the courts and the state legislature have failed to take any action on recognizing same-sex marriages as being legal. The Rhode Island Supreme Court justices did not offer any date for when they would come to a decision on this case.

The couple filed for divorce back in October of last year, and Rhode Island's chief family court judge, Jeremiah S. Jeremiah Jr., asked the Supreme Court some two months later whether he could grant this lesbian divorce.

If the Supreme Court rules that Rhode Island can grant a gay divorce to a couple married in Massachusetts, the case will likely be sent back to Jeremiah.

As usual, we'll keep you updated on this very important Rhode Island gay divorce case.


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