Judge Grants First Same-Sex Divorce in Missouri

Categories: LGBT

samesexrings.jpg
Purple Sherbet Photography, cropped
Welp, looks like they won't need these anymore.
Gay marriage may be banned in Missouri's constitution, but gay divorce isn't.

A lesbian couple in Columbia appears to be the first to get a divorce in the state, which officially banned gay marriage in 2004.

Dena and Samantha Latimer married in Massachusetts, the first state to allow same-sex marriage, in 2009, and then moved to Missouri, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. Because the couple doesn't live in Massachusetts, state law barred them from getting a divorce there, sending the Latimers to Boone County Circuit Judge Leslie Schneider.

See also: Missouri Recognizes Out-Of-State Marriage For First Cousins, Why Not Gays?

Dena Latimer's attorney Tana Benner tells the Tribune her client was afraid a Missouri judge wouldn't grant a divorce in a state that banned same-sex marriage. Legal experts can't find another local example of same-sex divorce.

"I think they just wanted to get some relief," Benner says to the Tribune. "They were in a position where they didn't think it would be possible."

Schneider did grant the divorce, citing the legal doctrine of "comity," which means that states can defer to another state's laws to answer a particular legal question. Because same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, where the Latimers were married, Schneider followed Massachusetts laws and allowed the divorce, writing in her ruling that "the court maintains an authority to enter judgment with respect to a marriage that is not legally recognized."

See also: ACLU And Eight Gay Couples Sue Missouri Over Same-Sex Marriage Ban

It's not the first time a Missouri judge has ruled on a marriage that's technically illegal in the state. In 1993 the Western District Missouri Court of Appeals judged a marriage where the two parties never got a marriage license.

Schneider also said in her ruling that denying divorce to same-sex couples violates their due process obligations under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest legal-rights organization in the U.S. for LGBT people, tells the Tribune that the Latimers' divorce is the first it has ever seen in Missouri.

"Same-sex couples are like everybody else in that they have relationships that sometimes don't work out," says Christopher Clark, an attorney for Lambda Legal, to the Tribune.

There has been a same-sex annulment in Buchanan County, which was filed about four years after the 2004 ban on same-sex marriage. An annulment retroactively cancels a marriage, like it never legally happened, whereas divorce ends a marriage.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.

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21 comments
Steve Ridling
Steve Ridling

Had to recognize them as married in order to grant the divorce didn't they? Get over it Mo.

Justin Smith
Justin Smith

People should have the right to marry who they want and divorce who they want. Missouri get with it. This issue is no different than making black people free or women the right to vote.

Michelle Accardi
Michelle Accardi

This is wrong. Its illegal to marry but legal to divorce? Society needs to crawl into the next century. Lets see what happens when Michael Sam goes onto the field. My feeling is this, as long as it generates money its ok, as long as it breaks up a same sex couple its ok. What a joke this state is.

RustyNailofBWB
RustyNailofBWB

@BaroneNicholas It was bound to happen. In time the law will figure out how to decide which parent is the more fit when they are both male.

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

Hey did you feel that? Yea Missouri just got dumber.

Amber Marie
Amber Marie

Stupid. If the state addresses the union, then allow it already!

Genia Ackworth
Genia Ackworth

Some studies leave a lot of speculation. From what I've actually seen and heard they have a high divorce and domestic violence rate and this was long before any talk of gay marriage. I'm talking way back to domestic partnership. Relationships had extra stress on them because of coming out, family and society.

Josh Hall
Josh Hall

Actually study's have shown the opposite but given time and marriage equality eventually in all 50 states you could eventually be correct...

duanecooper
duanecooper

While I am pleased to see this news I have to say that the article is in error. The first same sex divorce, of which I am aware, happened in McDonald County, Missouri. On September 23 2013, in Case No. 13MC-CV00563 the Circuit Court dissolved the marriage of two individuals who had originally married in Iowa. Just because we are in the sticks down here don't get the impression that we can't be at the forefront of legal issues.

RJ Alexander
RJ Alexander

Jenny Campbell the show me is so backwards... ugh

Michelle Accardi
Michelle Accardi

How can a divorce happen if the marriage is illegal in this state?

Bob Stclair
Bob Stclair

My guess ? It was done NOT as a divorce . Butt more as a civil matter . As in ... half this shit is yours an half of this shit is mine ! An yes pun is intended :)

Jon Todaro
Jon Todaro

One cannot exist without the other. That's hypocritical. You cannot undo what they do not legally recognize.

Genia Ackworth
Genia Ackworth

They have just as high a divorce rate as hetero's do.

Couch Pig
Couch Pig

lock them up like the drug addicts..

Laura Dee
Laura Dee

They "undo" what was done in other states. Leave it to Missouri to get it backwards.

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