If you make it in Massachusetts, you better end it there

The Rhode Island Supreme Court is dealing with a rather delicate matter right now. It’s been asked to rule on a divorce case, but instead has sent it back to the lower court. They’re trying to decide if they even have jurisdiction in the case, let alone the merits of it.

Back in 2003, Margaret and Cassandra wanted to be wed, but Rhode Island didn’t have any way for two women to tie the knot. So they skipped across the border to Massachusetts, formalized their union, and trotted back home.

But not was all blissful. Last year, the two decided that it just wasn’t working any more. And in an ironic twist, these two lesbians found that they really needed a man — more precisely, Alexander The Great, to undo the legal Gordian knot they had twisted the legal system into.

Rhode Island law is silent on the subject of gay marriage. It neither allows nor forbids it. It’s an absolute void. So there is no law, no precedent, no case history to guide judges in dissolving their union.

There is a simple solution, of course: simply treat it as any other divorce case, just go through and remove the gender-specific references.

The problem with that is that would result in a de facto recognition of same-sex marriages, and open the floodgates to other same-sex couples to seek union in Rhode Island. That would lead to much the same situation in Massachusetts — a large portion of the populace quite upset that such a major change in the legal and social landscape had been made with no public input.

The subject of gay marriage touches upon a huge portion of society, not just the tiny minority that would directly benefit from it. I want it to come about (for no other reasons than that I think that marriage as an institution would be strengthened by increasing the pool of potential marriages, and it would serve as a social reinforcement of long-term, stable relationships in general), but I want it to come about in a way that will survive the opposition of its detractors. That means getting enough people to support it and recognize it and accept it, so any resultant challenges — be they at the ballot box, in the legislative halls, or in the courts — will be defeated.

In the meantime, the simplest solution for Margaret and Cassandra would be to seek divorce in the same jurisdiction that they wed. If that means moving into Massachusetts long enough to establish residency, then so be it. They should have thought about that when they chose to be married outside of their home state.

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