Blog Post

Paving the Way for Same-Sex “Divorce”

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer (Feb. 28, 2008) Two nasty same-sex break-ups are playing out in the New York court system and are bringing much-needed public attention to the sky-high “divorce” rates among same-gendered couples. The first case involves a lesbian couple with two children who were married in Toronto in 2004. According to a report by ABC News, a woman identified only as Beth R. is suing her partner, Donna M., for divorce and child custody. Even though New York does not allow same-sex marriage, a state trial court judge refused to dismiss the case, making it the first potential same-sex divorce case in the state. Lawyers for Donna M. argued that their 2004 marriage should be invalid in New York, but Supreme Court Justice Laura Drager said no, an out-of-state marriage could still be recognized under New York law. Donna M.’s attorney, Raoul Felder, told ABC News that the judge “wants to change the law” and is ignoring hundreds of years of state law. He plans to appeal. Last year, New York declined to create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, saying it was an issue for the legislature to decide. Forty-one states have laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and those laws allow the states to reject same-sex marriages from other states. To date, Massachusetts is the only U.S. state that allows same-sex marriage. Several states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships, which are supposed to provide many of the same benefits as marriage, but a second case being tried in New York and involving a lesbian couple with a “living together” agreement may test the scope of these benefits. Thirty-nine year old opera singer and heiress to the Avery Dennison office products dynasty, Halina Avery, decided to split up with her partner, Molly Caldwell. The two women met in college and moved in together in 1994. They exchanged commitment rings, opened joint bank accounts, and owned a co-op on the upper West Side of Manhattan. Every one who knew them said they were a family in every sense of the word. But that all ended in 2006, when Caldwell admitted to kissing another woman in a bar. Avery called it quits and sued to have Caldwell banished from their co-op and from a life insurance policy. The 37 year old Caldwell decided to fight back and is suing for spousal support and an equitable distribution of the money she used to share with the woman she called her “wife.”   Caldwell’s lawyer, Aaron Goodman, told The New York Daily News that “This was, for all intents and purposes, a marriage. They should be treated no differently than the parties in a divorce.” One of Avery’s lawyers, Yetta Kurland, disagrees and rightly states that the couple “never entered into, nor intended to enter into, a marriage. If they had intended to marry, or file as domestic partners in New York City, then they would have done so.” Avery wants her former partner to stick to the terms of a “living together” agreement they made in 1995 which states that neither woman would make any claim for support, money or property in case of a breakup. One party wants that agreement ignored and the relationship to be treated as a marriage, the other does not. The decision now lies with Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse, whose ruling is expected shortly. Both cases bring renewed attention to the most under-reported aspect of the same-sex marriage debate – the high break-up rate and nature of same-sex relationships. Researchers have found that very few same-sex relationships last much longer than two years. Even in countries like the Netherlands, where same-sex relationships have widespread acceptance, a 2003 study found that steady same-sex partnerships lasted an average of only 1.5 years. Another grossly under-reported fact is that very few same-sex relationships are monogamous. In the book One Man, One Woman, researcher Dale O’Leary writes about the study conducted by David McWhirter and Andrew Mattison, who are themselves a same-sex couple, for their book, The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop. Of the 156 couples they studied, “Only seven couples have a totally exclusive relationship, and these men all have been together less than five years,” the authors write. “Stated in another way, all couples with a relationship lasting more than five years have incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity in their relationships.” Although gay activists like to claim publicly that allowing same-sex marriage will strengthen their relationships, “the less-publicized comments of others suggest that these claims are disingenuous,” O’Leary writes. “ . . .(M)any gay activists hope that changing the definition of marriage will weaken support for many of its traditional characteristics, particularly fidelity, permanence, and the norm of father/mother/children family.” Proponents of same-sex marriage frequently cite high heterosexual divorce rates as a reason why the public should not be too concerned about the appalling rate of homosexual break-ups. However, the facts prove otherwise. Statistics show that heterosexual couples have a much better track record than their same-sex counterparts. A 2001 National Center for Health Statistics study on heterosexual marriage and divorce statistics showed that 66 percent of first marriages last 10 years or longer, with 50 percent lasting 20 or more years. Compare this to the findings of the 2003/2004 Gay/Lesbian Online Census which found that only 15 percent of the 7,862 homosexual surveyed said their current relationship lasted 12 years or longer; and only five percent said it lasted more than 20 years. This finding is backed by other studies, such as a 2004 Swedish report on same-sex unions and divorce rates in that country. They found that same-sex male couples were 1.5 times as likely (50 percent more likely) and same sex female couples were 2.67 times more likely (167 percent more likely) to divorce than opposite sex couples over a similar period of time. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.     Cut through the hype surrounding same-sex marriage. See Dale O’Leary’s book, One Man, One Woman in our store at