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What does gay marriage have to do with straight divorce?

In a recent landmark decision, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that same-sex couples in Maryland and across the nation have the right to marry. That decision has led to a great deal of debate, and even certain forms of protest. One such effort may be exemplified in a case in which a heterosexual couple was denied a divorce based on the Supreme Court's approach to gay marriage.

The case involved a man and woman, both in their 60s, who asked a court to rule on their contested divorce case. Both spouses came prepared to argue their position, and presented a total of seven witnesses and 77 exhibits for the court's review. However, after hearing testimony and reviewing evidence in the case, the judge ruled that he was unable to grant their divorce.

Specifically, the ruling states that because only the federal courts seem to have the authority to determine issues of marriage, then it follows that only the higher courts can rule on issues of divorce. The judge went on the say that the jurisdiction of courts at the state level has been preempted. The divorce was denied, leaving the parties married against their will. They have the option of filing again under different grounds, but there is no guarantee that their second attempt will be successful, especially if the case is heard before the same judge.

The outcome of this case is unusual, and Maryland residents are unlikely to experience similar results. Unfortunately, our nation's courts are often slow to match the pace of social change. This case may be more of an example of an individual trying to make a political statement, rather than a divergent interpretation of law. For the couple caught in the middle of the issue and now facing the need to find an alternative path to divorce, the experience must certainly be frustrating.

Source:, "Tennessee judge refuses straight couple's divorce, citing SCOTUS gay marriage", Sept. 7, 2015

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