The Rhode Island
state supreme court has agreed to hear arguments on
whether a gay couple who wed in Massachusetts can get
divorced in Rhode Island, where the law is silent on
the legality of same-sex marriages.
The justices said
they would decide only whether a lower court can
recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state for
the purpose of handling a divorce petition. Lawyers
for both sides say the divorce case won't decide
whether gay couples can get married in Rhode Island.
Ormiston and Margaret Chambers were married in 2004 after
same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. Last year,
the couple filed for divorce in Rhode Island, where
they live, citing irreconcilable differences.
chief family court judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah Jr. asked the
Rhode Island supreme court to decide whether he had
jurisdiction to handle what is believed to be the
state's first same-sex divorce case.
returned the case to him at first, saying it needed more
information about the couple's marriage. But in an order
dated Monday, the justices agreed to take the case and
said they would accept written briefs on or before
The court invited
the attorney general, the governor, state legislative
leaders, and other interested parties to file briefs.
Earlier this year Atty. Gen. Patrick Lynch wrote a
legal opinion urging the state to recognize those
A date for
hearing oral arguments has not been set.
''The fact is,
this case will proceed, and we're hopeful for a resolution
before year's end,'' said Louis Pulner, an attorney for
If the supreme
court rules that Jeremiah has jurisdiction over the
divorce case, then the matter would be sent back to him to
decide, Pulner said. But if the court rules otherwise,
the only legal avenue may be for the women to move to
Massachusetts and live there long enough to obtain a
divorce, Pulner said.
Neither woman is
interested in that option, their lawyers said.
''I don't see how
it's possible for her financially,'' said Nancy
Palmisciano, an attorney for Ormiston. ''That means setting
up roots in Massachusetts and becoming a resident
there and basically messing up her entire life.''
(Eric Tucker, AP)