As Gay Marriages Rise, Now Comes The Case For Same-Sex Divorce Many couples have traveled to states where gay marriage is recognized to get hitched. Those who do have a much harder time getting divorced once they get back home.


As Gay Marriages Rise, Now Comes The Case For Same-Sex Divorce

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To another story about changing social policies in the U.S. Gay marriage is now legal in over half of the states in this country. The federal government will recognize these unions as long as the couple gets married in a state where it is legal so people often travel to other states to get hitched. But as NPR's as Lucy Perkins reports, those who leave home to wed can have a much harder time getting divorced.

LUCY PERKINS, BYLINE: In 2008, Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham traveled with her then-partner from their home in Mississippi to San Francisco to get married. It was a few months after gay marriage became legal in California.

LAUREN BETH CZEKALA-CHATHAM: We were married after being together for over, like, a year and a half.

PERKINS: A year after they were married, they decided to split up.

CZEKALA-CHATHAM: Like all marriages, it hit a - it had its bumps and all. We went through therapy. We weren't able to repair the relationship.

PERKINS: She wanted to get a divorce, but Mississippi doesn't recognize same-sex marriage so she can't get one there.

KODY SILVA: It's a very unfortunate predicament to be in because you realize you cannot get divorced in your state of residence.

PERKINS: That's Kody Silva, a divorce attorney in Washington, D.C.

SILVA: And the state that you were married in will not allow you to get divorced unless you go back and essentially become a resident of that state once again.

PERKINS: Silva says you would have to live in the state you got married in for at least six months, or longer in some states. Establishing residency means getting utilities and a driver's license in your name.

>>SILVA And you don't want to have to move in order to achieve a divorce that, you know, your straight-couple friends can do without having to go through that hassle.

MEAGHAN HEARN: And you're talking about kids, you're talking about owning a house in one state, having kids in school in one state.

PERKINS: Meaghan Hearn is an attorney who works with Silva in the District.

HEARN: You're already going through a tough time separating from your spouse. It's tough to begin with, and to add this on top of it is another layer of complexity.

PERKINS: Hearn and Silva have seen quite a few same-sex divorce cases. When gay marriage became legal in D.C. on March 3, 2010, Silva says there was a lot of excitement. Couples who had been together for years went to the courthouse and got married and so did couples who had only been together for a few months.

SILVA: Getting caught up in the hype kind of wore off very quickly.

PERKINS: In Washington, D.C. and a handful of other states, divorce laws are slightly looser than say in California. The District allows people who are married in D.C. to travel back to the city and file. Once a couple can file, a divorce is a divorce. Having to move to a different state isn't ideal, which is why advocates for marriage equality want the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a marriage equality case. Not just for the sake of marriage, but for the sake of divorce too. In the meantime, back in Mississippi, Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham decided to take her case to chancery court last year so she doesn't have to wait.

CZEKALA-CHATHAM: People get divorced. It's part of life. You don't want it to happen, but it happens. And if we can get the state to recognize an out-of-state marriage, maybe down the road, we can get them to recognize same-sex marriage and allow it in the state.

PERKINS: Czekala-Chatham lost the initial case and has appealed the decision. She's currently waiting on a court date. Lucy Perkins, NPR News.

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