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Civil union considered equal to marriage in Massachusetts

Legal marriage and divorce between a man and a woman has been around for many years and the law has had time to develop around the issues that present during divorce. While there is certainly a wide variety of difference in the details of each state's marriage laws, there is a consistency in the general ideals surrounding the basic foundation of the laws.

However, the same cannot be said about same-sex marriage. From one state to the next, the law differs so drastically that one state may honor same-sex marriage -- as does Massachusetts -- while another allows for a couple to enter into a civil union and yet others still consider a marriage between only a man and a woman. Because states disagree on the most basic foundation of same-sex marriage, it creates a greater degree of confusion nationwide.

Some clarification was made in Massachusetts this past month when the Supreme Judicial Court determined that a civil union in another state is equivalent to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The case that acted as the basis for the clarification was one involving a same-sex divorce. When the couple filed for divorce, one spouse found that his partner had entered into but never dissolved a civil union with another man in Vermont prior to their 2005 Massachusetts marriage.

What does this decision mean? It means that an individual who wishes to get married in Massachusetts must first dissolve any civil union entered into in another state. If the individual fails to do so, the person would be committing polygamy, making the marriage in Massachusetts void.

Source: LGBTQ Nation, "Massachusetts court rules Vermont 'civil union' equal to marriage in divorce proceeding," July 26, 2012

If you want to learn more about ending your partnership, our Boston same-sex divorce page provides more information.

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