Saturday, January 11, 2014

Same-Sex Divorce Problems in Anti-Gay Marriage States

I enjoy trolling Craigslist. I've used it to find a couple different part-time jobs and I've had a few laughs over entries in the "missed connections" section. I ran across the following post last night that I thought I would share (with a few spelling
corrections):
My best friend and I got married 11/21/12
We have grown to see it was a mistake
And have not lived in the same house or state in almost six months
My soon to be ex has had a sex change
And is now a woman (Tobias) now known as Lisa
She and I both want to move on with our life
Myself (Steven) lives in Kansas
And they will not allow a same sex divorce
And she lives in Texas so since we were married in Iowa
We need to get divorced there
We do not want anything from each other and we
Have no kids or money to divide or
Property to split.
We just want a friendly quick divorce.
So if there is anyone with a heart that can help
Please let us know what to do.
We are both living with family because we are broke
And lived together in Colorado while we were
Married up until about six moths ago
So please help us end this.
We both want to have a chance to get married if we
Meet the right person latter in life.

So please someone have a heart and help us.
The sooner the better.

Thanks
Two friends with a huge problem that needs
A huge heart. ....

Praying every day for someone
That will help us...
I've written about this before, but it bears repeating: You can get married in Iowa without being a resident, but you need to be a resident of Iowa for one year before you can get divorced in Iowa. Most other states also require a period of residence before they will process any request for a divorce.

I had an online friend who lived with the boyfriend in Missouri a few years back. They came to Iowa and got married. They then returned to their home state and had a fabulous reception and prepared for a lifetime of matrimony together. Unfortunately, my friend soon realized that he and his new husband had some major problems and could not continue living as a married couple. He tried annulling his marriage. He tried divorcing his husband. However, his state is a marriage inequality state and would not allow them to move ahead with either a divorce or an annulment.

My friend's only option was to move to a marriage equality state like Iowa (or New York or Massachusetts, etc...). Of course, it's not an easy process to get out of an apartment lease or to job search remotely during a recession. Unfortunately, my online friend passed away unexpectedly and this whole process became moot.

But it's something that same-sex couples really need to consider before they decide to take a vacation to one of the 17.5 active marriage equality states or Canada to get legally married and then return to their home state. Husband Mark and I could've traveled to Vermont or Massachusetts before 2009 to get legally married. We certainly talked about it and we had a commitment ceremony back in the late 90s. But then we would've come back to Iowa and been frustrated by our state's then-refusal to honor our marriage license and we would've been stuck if our relationship had soured.

Personally (and recognizing that I'm one of the fortunate gays right now in this country), I would be extremely hesitant to travel to another state to get married to a same-sex partner unless I was planning a scenic Hawaiian wedding and then returning to Iowa or Washington DC. The only exception I might allow for is if I lived in a community that borders a marriage equality state -- like Omaha, NE, or Moline, IL. At least then, it would be relatively easy later one to move to Iowa (or whichever marriage equality state you live near) without completely disrupting your career and social network.

I don't know that there is an easy answer for couples like Steven and Lisa. If they want to get divorced, at least one of them will need to move to a state that recognizes same-sex marriages for at least 6-12 months.

But others needs to consider stories like this and remember the old saying: look before you leap!

2 comments:

Alison said...

Wow, this is incredibly timely! Just last night I made the most unromantic proposal, wondering if it would be worth the Federal protections to travel to another state to get married. We would certainly consult with a lawyer before making that decision, but that's just one more "hidden" disadvantage we have to overcome. I wrote a blog post a while ago about the tax penalties for having a same-sex partner on my corporate benefits, and mentioned that we can't receive each other's Social Security benefits, and people commented that they had no idea! There are so many complicated details to this whole issue that hetero couples never even have to consider.

Jon said...

Thanks Alison! Someday I'll have to write a blog article about my own proposal to Mark -- I was baited and trapped into it!

But seriously, its a tough place to get in. At least now the federal government will honor our marriages. No easy answers...