Married same sex couples unable to divorce in Rhode Island, despite recent order

By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, May 14, 2012 19:46 EDT
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Same sex marriage photo by Nikolai Alekseev
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Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee issued an executive order on Monday that requires the state to recognize same sex marriages performed out-of-state. The order gives married same sex couples many of the same rights as heterosexual couples. However, same sex couples married elsewhere will still not be able to get a divorce in the state.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) told Raw Story that the executive order does not provide the ability to divorce. In 2007, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Family Court does not have jurisdiction to recognize a same sex marriage performed out of state, and therefore could grant same sex couples a divorce.

Legislation currently being considered by the Rhode Island House, The Equal Access to Family Court Act, would need to be signed into law before same sex couples married out-of-state could file for divorce.

The Providence Journal first reported that the executive order would not allow married same sex couples to divorce in Rhode Island.

The executive order ensures that married same sex couples are treated the same as married heterosexual couples regarding employment benefits and insurance. Same sex couples will also be entitled to sales tax exemptions and be allow both partners in a same sex relationship to list their names as parents on a child’s birth certificate. The order does not affect federally regulated benefits.

“The executive order will have immediate positive impact on married same-sex couples, who now will be able to receive consistent, equal treatment from their state government,” said Karen L. Loewy, Senior Staff Attorney with GLAD, who worked with the Governor’s office on the order.

Five states in the northeast — New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire — have legalized same sex marriages. In 2011, the Rhode Island legislature considered same sex marriage legislation, but after facing fierce opposition lawmakers passed civil union legislation instead.

“We thank the Governor for his leadership. This is exactly the kind of incremental progress toward marriage equality that the state needs,” said GLAD Staff Attorney Janson Wu. “Now it’s the legislature’s turn to protect all families without delay by passing marriage equality.”

[Image via Nikolai Alekseev, Creative Commons licensed]

Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on Twitter @ewdolan.
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