Sunday, November 03, 2013
Courts - "First 'gay divorce' attempted in Kentucky"; Overview of marriage equality efforts from USA Today
Andrew Wolfson had the long story in the Louisville Courier-Journal yesterday, Nov. 2. Some quotes:
The case of Romero vs. Romero would seem to be a routine divorce. The couple have no children and already have divided their assets.Some quotes from Marisol Bello's story yesterday in USA TODAY, with the title, "Emboldened, gay marriage activists eye 50 states: Same-sex couples file more lawsuits, and more public officials defy gay marriage bans after Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA."
But both Alysha Romero and her spouse, Rebecca Sue Romero, are women — and so, in Kentucky, their divorce is anything but routine.
Family Court judges and divorce lawyers say Alysha’s petition — filed Oct. 25 in Jefferson Family Court — is the state’s first involving a same-sex couple who were married in another state where same-sex marriages are legal, and want to end their marriage in Kentucky.
Alysha’s lawyer, Louis Waterman, said they should have the right to divorce here, rather than endure the disruption and expense of going back to Massachusetts, where they were wed, and living there for one year to meet that state’s residency requirement.
“I have a career here, a life here, and I think I should have the same right as a heterosexual to divorce here,” said Alysha Romero, 29, an administrative assistant in the University of Louisville’s radiology department.
But both opponents and supporters of gay marriage — including Waterman — say the court will have no choice but to dismiss the petition because Kentucky’s marriage amendment bans not only gay marriage, but the recognition of such marriages performed elsewhere as well.
Waterman said he intends to appeal the likely dismissal and then ask the Kentucky Supreme Court to throw out the marriage amendment on the grounds that it violates equal protection of law guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
Gay rights advocates, including Beth Littrell, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, a national gay rights organization that isn’t involved in the case, say it makes no sense for a state to ban gay marriage, then require a same-sex couple to remain permanently wed. * * *
With 14 states and the District of Columbia now allowing gay marriage — and 20, including Kentucky, refusing to even recognize those performed legally elsewhere — gay divorce may become the next battleground in the fight over marriage equality. * * *
Attorneys who aren’t involved with the case agreed with Waterman that Family Court Judge Joseph O’Reilly, to whom the case was assigned, will have no choice but to dismiss it.
Diana Skaggs, the former president of the Kentucky chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, said the couple’s best hope of dissolving their marriage likely will come in an appeal to federal court. * * *
If the Romeros aren’t able to divorce, it will have some very pragmatic consequences. For example, the Internal Revenue Service recently announced it will recognize same-sex marriages performed in states such as Massachusetts, where it is legal, meaning that the Romeros must continue to file federal taxes as if they are married.
The Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act in June opened the door to an explosion of activity by gay marriage proponents.
Today, they are waging their campaign on several fronts: filing lawsuits, encouraging public officials to defy state bans on gay marriage, and stepping up a push for state legislation.
Since June, couples have filed 23 lawsuits to end bans in 21 states; governors and state attorneys general in at least three states have refused to defend their state bans in court; and county clerks in four states have issued marriage licenses to gay couples despite laws against it. Hawaii is considering legislation to allow gay marriage, and advocates are pushing for Oregon and Nevada to do the same next year. * * *
• On Oct. 21, New Jersey became the 14th state to allow gay marriage after a court ruled that a ban was unconstitutional. Republican Gov. Chris Christie dropped his opposition because he thought he would lose in the state Supreme Court, where the justices have ruled in favor of gay marriage in previous cases.
• On Oct. 17, Oregon's Department of Justice ruled that state agencies must recognize the unions of same-sex couples married legally in other states or countries, even though the state has a ban. That means treating gay married couples the same as straight couples for tax purposes and other state benefits, such as property rights and child custody. Activists hope to get a measure on the 2014 ballot to overturn the ban.
• Since August, some county clerks in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and New Mexico have challenged state laws banning gay marriage by issuing licenses to same-sex couples. * * *
Statistician Nate Silver, famous for accurately predicting the 2012 presidential vote in all 50 states, used a statistical analysis to forecast that by 2016, 31 states would be likely to favor gay marriage in a referendum, and by 2020, only six states — all in the South — would still be likely to vote against it.
"This is demonstrably inevitable," Klarman says.
Opponents of gay marriage are not convinced.
Thirty-five states ban same-sex marriage, most through constitutional amendments, notes Peter Breen, senior counsel at the Thomas More Society, a Chicago law firm that advocates for traditional marriage.
Illinois demonstrates that legalizing gay marriage is not a slam dunk, Breen says.
"When you look at Illinois, it was assumed they'd go for same-sex marriage," because the state leans liberal and Democratic, he says. But repeated efforts this year to pass a law recognizing same-sex marriage failed; a bill passed in the state Senate but not the House.
Breen represents five county clerks defending the state's ban on gay marriage in a lawsuit filed by 25 same-sex couples. The clerks entered the case after Gov. Pat Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, both Democrats, refused to act.
California is another example of a liberal state that voted against gay marriage when it passed Prop 8 in 2008 with 52% of the vote. State courts overturned the law after a lawsuit by same-sex couples. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in June that the private parties defending the ban did not have standing to do so. The high court's decision allowed gay marriage to resume in California but did not settle the question of whether states can impose such bans.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 3, 2013 06:37 PM
Posted to Courts in general