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Court ruling on gay marriage opens door to same-sex divorce in Utah

Published: Sunday, Aug. 30 2015 12:39 a.m. MDT

Astrid Marquez married her wife in Connecticut in 2010, but less than a year later the couple knew it wouldn't work out. Marquez, a 14-year resident of Utah, soon learned she couldn't file for divorce in Utah since her marriage wasn't legally recognized. The recent court ruling on same-sex marriage is changing that. (Ray Boone, Deseret News) Astrid Marquez married her wife in Connecticut in 2010, but less than a year later the couple knew it wouldn't work out. Marquez, a 14-year resident of Utah, soon learned she couldn't file for divorce in Utah since her marriage wasn't legally recognized. The recent court ruling on same-sex marriage is changing that. (Ray Boone, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal court ruling striking down Utah’s law defining marriage as between a man and a woman made it possible for same-sex couples to legally marry. It also made it possible for same-sex couples to file for divorce.

“I had to remain in this relationship that I didn’t want to, and no one should have to endure that,” said Astrid Marquez, who is now involved in a divorce filing.

The 14-year Utah resident legally married her wife in Connecticut in 2010, but 10 months later the couple knew it wasn’t meant to be.

“We separated,” Marquez said. “We had a house together. She kept the residence. I moved.”

Marquez soon learned, though, she couldn’t get a divorce in Utah. State courts have previously not granted divorces to same-sex couples because they couldn’t do so for marriages the state didn’t legally recognize. No legal marriage in Utah meant no divorce.

Her options were the same all divorcing same-sex marriage partners faced in Utah at that time — either separate or move to a state that recognized the marriage, establish residency for as long as a year, and then file for divorce.

The latter option was too costly and wasn’t realistic, Marquez said.

“It was really frustrating. It was also very hard because I couldn’t really move on,” she said. “How do you say, 'I’m married, but not really? I’m divorced, but not really?'"

Family law attorney Wade Taylor said the ruling from Judge Robert Shelby will make a significant difference for people such as Marquez.

“They were in this legal limbo where they’re just stuck in this marriage that they don’t want to be in anymore,” Taylor said. “There’s no reason to believe that they shouldn’t have the right to be divorced.”

Taylor is currently involved in two same-sex divorce filings, including Marquez’s, and doesn’t anticipate trouble getting a divorce granted now that the state is issuing marriage licenses to same-sex partners.

He predicts a “boom” eventually in same-sex divorces.

“We already have several filed in the 3rd District here in Salt Lake that are same-sex couples seeking a divorce, and I would imagine that some of these couples, the thousand or so couples that got married recently when the ruling came out, they’re going to have issues just like any other couple does,” Taylor said.

Marquez said she simply hopes for the same rights afforded to others.

“It’s sad that human beings are being deprived of these rights, and … I had to remain in this relationship that I didn’t want,” Marquez said. “No one should have to endure that.”

Email: aadams@deseretnews.com

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