JUSTICE LAURA DRAGER
JUDGE OKS GAY DIVORCE
By DAREH GREGORIAN
February 26, 2008
There's no such thing as gay marriage in New York - but a Manhattan judge says that doesn't mean there can't be gay divorce.
In a bombshell, first-of-its-kind ruling, state Supreme Court Justice Laura Drager is allowing a Manhattan woman to sue for divorce from the longtime lesbian lover she married in Canada in 2004. "Donna M." had argued her marriage to "Beth R." should be declared void because New York doesn't allow gay nuptials, but Drager disagreed. "[T]his court's decision [is] that out-of-state same-sex marriages are properly recognized under our law," and therefore Beth R. can proceed with her divorce and custody action against mother of two Donna M., the ruling says. Drager noted that there are only two exceptions where New York does not recognize an out-of-state marriage - if it is specifically named by the Legislature as prohibited or is "abhorrent to New York public policy." The Legislature hasn't specifically outlawed out-of-state same-sex marriages, and "the abhorrence exception is so narrow that it has been applied only to marriages involving polygamy or incest," the judge wrote.
Donna M.'s lawyer vowed to appeal. "The judge's decision was scholarly and well thought out, but it sets aside 200 years of decisional and statutory law in New York," said her lawyer, Raoul Felder. "She wants to change the law. That's something for the Legislature to do." Another of Donna M.'s lawyers, Bettina Hinden, noted the ruling also allows Beth R. to seek custody of Donna M.'s two daughters, even though she never legally adopted them. The lawyer for Beth R., Susan Sommer, said the judge is following the law and is "just applying it in a different situation." Drager's decision describes both women as in their 40s and working in media. "They met in late 1999 and soon thereafter entered into an intimate relationship," Drager wrote.
They moved in together, and Donna M. had a baby via artificial insemination in October 2003. They tied the knot in front of family and friends in Toronto on Valentine's Day in 2004, and Donna M. gave birth to another girl in 2006. The elder child, identified as "J.R.," referred to Beth R. as "Mom" and Donna M. as "Mommy," and both women "cared for the children and contributed to their support," the judge wrote.