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R.I. court to
take up gay divorce case

R.I. court to
take up gay divorce case

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 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.

Cassandra 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.

In December, 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.

The court 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 August 1.

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 marriages.

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 Chambers.

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)

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