RENTON, NJ — Gay marriage has been slowly gaining more acceptance in North America, as Canada, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and (temporarily) California have legalized it. But this has led to the question of how other states should handle the divorces of homosexual couples that have married elsewhere. So far, courts in Oklahoma, Texas, and Rhode Island have refused to grant divorces to gay couples.
Until recently, New York State was the only state to grant gay divorces for out-of-state gay marriages. But now, New Jersey has broken the barrier as well. A court ruling on February 6 states that gay couples who have wed in Canada may get a divorce in the state, although New Jersey has yet to legalize gay marriage.
Kinyati and La Kia Hammond, a lesbian couple who married in British Columbia in 2004 and lived in Maryland, will be divorced after a March 2 court hearing. The year after the marriage, La Kia Hammond, a former financial analyst, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and given only two years to live; in 2006, she left Kinyati Hammond along with her daughter (who’s now 14) and later moved to New Jersey. Now, she wants a divorce so that she can marry another woman, Shanele Gooch, in Canada before her death.
The state attorney general’s office wanted to give La Kia Hammond a dissolution of a civil union rather than a full divorce. But she was worried that she would not have permission to marry again in Canada without a valid divorce judgment.
State Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson, who presided over the case, agreed with the latter view. “To grant the divorce here is not against public policy. It’s consistent with the strong marriage-recognition principles that have been practiced since the 1800s,” she stated in her oral ruling, as quoted by the Associated Press.
Judge Jacobson clarified that her decision does not necessarily mean that New Jersey will recognize same-sex marriages in other contexts. It does, to some extent, overrule a state attorney general’s order stating that the state would not fully recognize outside same-sex marriages.
Kinyati Hammond, who now lives in New Castle, Delaware, didn’t contest the divorce.
“Breaking up is painful enough. I’m happy we won’t have to face the hardship of having to fight just to make it official,” La Kia Hammond, 33, told AP. She added that she was going to send out wedding invitations within the week for her upcoming nuptials to Gooch.
Attorney General Anne Milgram has not yet decided whether or not she will appeal Judge Jacobson’s ruling to a higher court, her spokesperson told The Associated Press.