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Wyoming Courts May Grant Same-Sex Divorce, State Supreme Court Says

Posted Jun 7, 2011 6:20 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled the state’s courts have jurisdiction to grant the divorce of a same-sex couple who were legally married in Canada.

The decision (PDF) on Monday overturns a trial judge's ruling that courts had no authority to grant the divorce because the marriage wasn’t legally recognized in Wyoming. The couple, Paula Christiansen and Victoria Lee Christiansen, were married in Canada in 2008, the Billings Gazette reports.

The court noted that marriages “contrary to the laws of nature,” such as polygamous and incestuous marriages, cannot be dissolved in the state. But “the policy exception is necessarily narrow, lest it swallow the rule,” the court said. Common law marriages, for example, are invalid in the state but they are recognized in terms of workers compensation laws.

“Likewise, recognizing a valid foreign same-sex marriage for the limited purpose of entertaining a divorce proceeding does not lessen the law or policy in Wyoming against allowing the creation of same-sex marriages,” the court said.

The state supreme court cautioned in a footnote that the opinion is restricted to the issue of divorce. “The question of recognition of such same-sex marriages for any other reason, being not properly before us, is left for another day,” the court said.

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