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1st Gay Divorce in Colo. Sets Precedent

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

A gay couple who tied the knot in Massachusetts got their divorce finalized Monday in Colorado -- the first same-sex dissolution under Colorado's civil union law, which took effect in May.

It may seem counterintuitive to the marriage equality movement, but for gay Coloradoans like Juli Yim, the ability to get her out-of-state marriage dissolved while still residing in Colorado was a boon, reports The Coloradoan.

Why does legally ending out-of-state gay unions in Colorado matter so much?

Colorado's Civil Union Act

Part of the problem with the discussion of gay legal unions and their patchwork of state laws is the issue of defining terms.

Same-sex marriage comes with all the benefits of traditional marriage in states that allow or recognize it. And after a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, same-sex married couples are now eligible for the same federal benefits as opposite-sex married couples.

Civil unions are legal unions created by a state, such as Colorado. Civil unions often have the same state benefits as "traditional" marriage, but lack federal marriage benefits and do not necessarily have to be recognized by other states.

Colorado's Civil Union Act, however, provides gay couples with two important legal rights:

  1. The right to have legal out-of-state marriages or civil unions recognized in Colorado as a civil union, and
  2. The ability to have that civil union (based on an out-of-state arrangement) legally dissolved in Colorado, if one spouse has lived in Colorado for at least 90 days.

This was important for Yim, who was married in Massachusetts -- where any divorce requires a one-year period of residency. And Yim, whose ex-wife lives in Virginia, didn't want to live in Massachusetts for a year in order to get divorced.

Effects of Civil Union Dissolution

A couple cannot enter a new marriage or civil union without divorce or dissolution of each spouse's prior union, which was preventing Yim from seeking a new legal union with her new partner in Colorado, reports The Coloradoan.

Luckily, Colorado's new civil union law allows a Colorado court to provide gay couples the dissolution of their out-of-state marriage -- which Colorado considers a civil union -- allowing Yim and Calvin to enter into a new civil union or marriage (in a state that allows it).

Civil union status in Colorado will allow Yim to apply for a second parent adoption of her new partner's two children, reports The Coloradoan, along with a host of other custody benefits.

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