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Rhode Island high court considers same-sex divorce case

[JURIST] The Rhode Island Supreme Court [official website] Tuesday heard arguments in a case on whether a lesbian couple legally married in Massachusetts has the right to divorce in Rhode Island. In Chambers v. Ormiston [GLAD amicus brief, PDF; additional case materials], Rhode Island residents Cassandra Ormiston and Margaret Chambers are seeking to end their 2004 Massachusetts marriage. Lawyers for the couple argued Tuesday that if the divorce is not permitted in Rhode Island, the couple's only recourse is to move to Massachusetts and establish residency for a divorce in that state, which lawyers said would be an unfair burden. Lawyers for each side stressed that the case does not consider whether an out-of-state same-sex marriage is valid in Rhode Island, rather focusing only on the parties' right to divorce.

In September 2006, a Massachusetts court ruled [JURIST report] that same-sex couples from Rhode Island must be allowed to wed in Massachusetts because Rhode Island does not expressly prohibit same-sex marriage through its state constitution, statutes or appellate court decisions. In February, Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch [official profile] issued a nonbinding advisory letter [PDF text; JURIST report] saying that Rhode Island will recognize same-sex marriages of state employees performed in Massachusetts. Lynch said that same-sex employee partners married in Massachusetts would be granted the same benefits as heterosexual married couples. AP has more.

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