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Court struggles over potential same-sex divorce

Massachusetts residents may be aware of an unusual divorce case making headlines across the nation. The case involves a transgender man who is seeking a divorce from his wife. The details of the case have a family court judge in one state struggling to accurately define not only gender specifications, but also untangle the legalities of one marriage. The outcome will help clarify the manner in which courts across the nation address issues related to same-sex divorce.

At the center of the case is an individual who was born a woman but later underwent a sex change operation. He had his state of residence change his driver's license to reflect his status as a male, and also legally changed his name. He married in 2003, but when his wife experienced fertility issues, he made the decision to carry and give birth to their three children.

The couple made news during the pregnancies, when the husband made multiple media appearances and was photographed with a full beard and a pregnant belly. However, the couple now wishes to divorce, and have begun that process in their new state of residence. They have encountered difficulty as the court struggles to define their union. The issue centers on the fact that their current state of residence does not recognize same-sex marriage, and because both partners in this union were born female, and the husband has given birth, the court will have to determine if they are in fact a same-sex couple, and therefore ineligible for divorce.

While this situation is certainly unique, it is demonstrative of the struggles that same-sex or transgendered couples in Massachusetts and elsewhere encounter as the country shifts to accept a wider range of marital arrangements. Unfortunately, this couple will serve as something of a test case in regard to how the law is equipped to handle such cases. Same-sex divorce is viewed as just as important as the right to wed, and if this couple is not allowed to end their marriage legally, they may be forced to turn to a civil court to divide their family assets and make determinations concerning child custody.

Source: ABC News, "Questions Over Sex Change Snag Ariz. Divorce Case," Jacques Billeaud, Jan. 1, 2013

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