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Wyoming Supremes grant same-sex divorce rights

Timothy Kincaid

June 6th, 2011

The Wyoming Supreme Court has recognized the right of a same-sex couple married in Canada to divorce in that state. They avoided the larger question of whether out-of-state marriage were recognized as such in Wyoming, addressing instead the narrower issue of divorce.

[R]ecognizing a valid foreign same-sex marriage for the limited purpose of entertaining a divorce proceeding does not lessen the law or policy in Wyoming against allowing the creation of same-sex marriages. A divorce proceeding does not involve recognition of a marriage as an ongoing relationship. Indeed, accepting that a valid marriage exists plays no role except as a condition precedent to granting a divorce. After the condition precedent is met, the laws regarding divorce apply. Laws regarding marriage play no role.

Specifically, Paula and Victoria are not seeking to live in Wyoming as a married couple. They are not seeking to enforce any right incident to the status of being married. In fact, it is quite the opposite. They are seeking to dissolve a legal relationship entered into under the laws of Canada. Respecting the law of Canada, as allowed by § 20-1-111, for the limited purpose of accepting the existence of a condition precedent to granting a divorce, is not tantamount to state recognition of an ongoing same-sex marriage. Thus, the policy of this state against the creation of same-sex marriages is not violated.

This does, however, give encouragement to those who would claim other marriage benefits or rights based on an out-of-state marriage.

Much thanks to reader embarcadero

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