Family Law

Top state court recognizes same-sex adultery as grounds for divorce

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The New Hampshire Supreme Court has overturned a 2003 decision that had defined adultery as voluntary intercourse between members of the opposite sex.

Ruling Thursday in a divorce case, the state supreme court defined adultery as intercourse between a married person and someone other than the married person’s spouse, regardless of sex. Intercourse can include any genital contact, not just vaginal penetration, the court said.

The New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Public Radio have coverage.

The husband in the case, Robert Blaisdell, had claimed that he was entitled to a divorce on fault-based grounds of adultery because of his wife’s alleged relationship with another woman. Blaisdell’s wife is Molly Blaisdell.

The state supreme court noted that New Hampshire legalized same-sex marriage in 2009, and the U.S. Supreme Court found a constitutional right to such marriages in 2015.

Defining adultery only as sex between opposite genders “removes the legal protection of the marital promise of fidelity from same-sex marriages and is clearly a remnant of the abandoned doctrine denying same-sex couples the right to enter into legally valid marriages,” the New Hampshire Supreme Court said.

The court said it was applying its definition retroactively.

The case is In the Matter of Blaisdell. The overruled decision in 2003 is In the Matter of Blanchflower.

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