Gay rights activists, legal experts and divorce attorneys in Pasadena alike are all watching how the U.S. courts deal with gay divorce. It's a fascinating and controversial topic, as gay marriage continues to be a hot button issue around the country. States also are tangled in discussions about how to deal with gay divorce when the majority of them don't recognize gay marriage. Wyoming is one state that has seen the gay divorce debate front and center.
Wyoming's highest court reversed a district court ruling on Monday allowing lesbian couple Paula Christiansen and Victoria Lee Christiansen to obtain a divorce. The couple married in 2008 in Canada, where marriage is legal. They were denied divorce in Wyoming earlier this year by District Judge Keith Kautz. He dismissed the divorce petition for lack of jurisdiction. The five-judge panel over turned his ruling with a unanimous decision. They categorized legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples as common-law marriages for the limited purpose of divorce. The decision, written by Justice Michael Golden, did note that the court's decision was in no way recognizing gay marriage. "Nothing in this opinion should be taken as applying to the recognition of same-sex marriages legally solemnized in a foreign jurisdiction in any context other than divorce," Golden wrote. "The question of recognition of such same-sex marriages for any other reason, being not properly before us, is left for another day," he added.
Gay divorce continues to make headlines. Last summer, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott fought for and won the right for his state to not recognize gay divorces. Other states are currently mulling over what to do with couples who were married in another state where gay marriage is recognized, like Massachusetts. And last week, a couple filed for the first ever same-sex divorce in Illinois.