Photo: Victoria Pickering (flickr)
An Indiana man in a same-sex marriage is filing for a divorce. Indiana law does not recognize same-sex unions, but in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, the case could provide clarity to how state courts handle same-sex issues that cross state lines.
Donald Schultz Lee was married in Massachusetts, but he does not fulfill the residency requirements that permit divorce in that state. So Schultz Lee’s lawyers are filing the request with the Marion County Clerk’s office.
Schultz Lee’s attorney Kathy Harmon says while her client is prepared for a legal battle, she does not know exactly what to expect from the courts.
“We’re not really sure what the court’s going to do at this point, and if the trial court says ‘we can’t divorce you,’ then either my client has to remain married or he has to go forward and appeal to the Court of Appeals,” she says.
In a similar case in 2009, a judge ruled that because Indiana does not recognize same sex marriages, it cannot handle same sex divorces.
But Indiana University Maurer School of Law associate professor Steve Sanders says the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA could change the outcome of this case. He says the Supreme Court opinion does not require Indiana to recognize marriages from other states, but if judges wanted to rule in favor of recognizing those marriages, they could use the opinion to back up their position.
In the meantime, same-sex couples will have to deal with the inconsistency across states.
“That illustrates the craziness, the unreasonableness, of this regime we have right now where one state can say you are married for all legal purposes, and that includes a divorce maybe down the road, and other states saying ‘we simply don’t view your marriage. You’re just roommates as far as I’m concerned,” Sanders says.
The case has been assigned to a judge, but there is no timeline for when he will issue a ruling.