Nationwide debate about gay marriage often pits long-held religious beliefs against modern views about gender, sexuality and civil rights. Known far and wide as the buckle of the Bible belt, Oklahoma quite predictably has not been among the first states to join the move toward legalizing same sex marriage. Gay marriage in Oklahoma is still specifically prohibited by state law.
There’s more to it, though. Check the license plates on almost any car licensed in Oklahoma. This is “Native America.” Oklahoma is home to 38 federally recognized Native American tribes, each of which enjoys the right to determine laws that govern members civil activities. That includes members’ right to marry.
An Oklahoma City Website – Gayly.com – reports that the Oklahoma-based Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes recently issued marriage licenses to two same-sex couples. This is no doubt applauded by Oklahoma gay marriage advocates. However, it raises a question that has followed on the heels of laws allowing gay marriage in various jurisdictions: what about same-sex divorce?
Oklahoma Gay Marriage Ban Thwarts Gay Divorce
As more jurisdictions recognize gay marriage, the number of gay couples holding marriage licenses issued in one jurisdiction but not recognized in another will inevitably grow. And statistics about divorce indicate that where ever there is marriage, a significant number of divorces will follow.
Because of the disparate residency rules within most states, it’s easier to get any kind of marriage than to get a divorce. Most states require six months or a year’s residency before they will grant a divorce. The same rules apply to same sex marriage.
For gay individuals living in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage and doesn’t let its courts adjudicate same sex divorce, an option could be for at least one partner to briefly move to a nearby state with more accommodating laws. But lengthy residency requirements for divorce make gay divorce more difficult than divorce for opposite sex couples who need not go jurisdiction shopping just to find a court that will adjudicate their divorce.
Same-sex couples who move to a state that does not recognize gay marriage face significant hurdles. Tribal members who were married in tribal court encounter barriers even within their home state.
Unlike opposite-sex couples married by a tribe, gay tribal members married by a tribe in Oklahoma don’t have the option of filing for divorce in the district court in the county where their tribe is located. They can’t remarry without risking prosecution under bigamy laws, but they can’t divorce because – so far – the lack of state recognition for gay marriage Oklahoma reempts gay divorce in Oklahoma courts.
Divorce isn’t the only matter complicated by heterogeneous recognition of marriage practices of from state to state. Probate proceedings can be complicated by a state not recognizing a marriage performed in another state. In some cases, marital privilege laws that shield a person from being compelled to testify against a spouse could be affected by a state’s non-recognition of gay marriages.
Each of these matters raises possible constitutional questions federal courts may eventually be persuaded to answer. In the mean time, gay marriage in Oklahoma remains a gray area for same sex partners in the Sooner State.
Free Consultation: Tulsa Divorce Attorney
Wirth Law Office’s Tulsa divorce attorney is available to freely consult with those who have questions about gay marriage in Oklahoma. And for individuals or couples facing unusual legal matters, our Tulsa attorney does more than help partners find their way out of marriage.
Wirth Law’s Tulsa attorneys can assist with estate planning for gay couples, address questions about adoption and help same-sex partners explore options for domestic partnership or gay marriage. And, if your same sex marriage in Oklahoma just hasn’t worked out the way you planned, our Tulsa divorce lawyers can assist you in exploring options in the complicated legal matters related to gay divorce.
To start your free consultation with a Tulsa, Oklahoma divorce lawyer, call the Wirth Law Office Tulsa attorney at (918) 879-1681 (or toll free at (888) Wirth-Law). You may also send your question in writing using the form at the top right of this page.
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