The Gay Divorce Trap: When Same-Sex Marriage Goes Wrong

Cristin Vincent’s relationship was two years old when she flew with her partner from Port St. Lucie, Florida, to Massachusetts to be legally sanctified as a gay couple. They arrived in Boston on Christmas Eve in a blizzard, but chaos transformed into euphoria when, on December 30, 2010, a judge declared them wife and wife.

“It was wonderfully surreal,” she says, her voice trembling with emotion. “We didn’t think that would ever happen.”

She didn’t think they would ever split up, either.

Few couples say “I do” with the assumption that they’ll at some point break that vow. In recent years, marriage-equality advocates have channeled their energy into momentous victories on the state and federal level—Minnesota became the 13th state to legalize gay marriage in May, just before the Supreme Court’s reversal of the Defense of Marriage—but the issue of gay divorce is an often overlooked aspect of the fight for marriage equality.

It seems obvious that anyone who has the right to marry should also have the right to divorce. And yet that right doesn’t always extend to same-sex couples, exposing a fundamentally flawed legal regime that could take years to catch up with heterosexual marriage. “Divorce is by no means romantic, but it is still one of the most profoundly important incidents as a right of civil marriage,” says Allen Drexel, a divorce lawyer specializing in family law.

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