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First Same-sex Divorce in New Orleans Comes Before First Marriage 

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Old 06-30-2015, 03:50 PM
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First Same-sex Divorce in New Orleans Comes Before First Marriage

The first same-sex divorce in Louisiana was granted about two hours before the first legally sanctioned same-sex wedding took place.

Two New Orleans women, Anna Wellman and Stephanie Baus, who married in Massachusetts in 2008, made bittersweet history by filing for divorce in Orleans Parish Civil District Court on Friday (June 26) -- something they couldn't have done before the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last week because Louisiana law did not recognize same-sex weddings performed out of state.

The divorce was made official Monday in a proceeding that lasted just minutes and concluded before 11 a.m., without the fanfare and media attention of the wedding ceremony that would take place shortly before 1 p.m. in another courtroom, Judge Paulette Irons said Tuesday.

"I treated them just like I would a man and a woman," Irons said. "My responsibility is to uphold not just the laws of the state of Louisiana, but the laws of the United States and the Constitution. After the Supreme Court ruled, that's the end of the road for me."

Michael Robinson and Earl Benjamin, likely the first same-sex couple to marry in Louisiana, signed their marriage certificate in front of Judge Paula Brown at 12:50 p.m.

Wellman and Baus had been living separately for five years, had divided their assets and never encountered difficulty dealing with custody of their now college-aged child, attorney Mitch Hoffman said. Married in 2008, the couple had been together more than a decade prior, he said.

While the couple was able to get a Massachusetts marriage license after spending just a few days in the state, they would have had to establish residency in Massachusetts in order to legally divorce, a process that can take up to a year, Hoffman said.

"They are both professionals, and they obviously weren't able to do that, so they had to wait," Hoffman said.

Wellman and Baus weren't aware of Robinson and Benjamin's ceremony was going to take place Monday, Hoffman said, and they never discussed whether to hold off on filing the divorce petition until after the state's first wedding.

"We were there earlier than the people who got married, I guess. It wasn't a race," he said. "They want to move forward and move on. That's all."

Hoffman said the the couple's parting had been amicable, but Friday's Supreme Court decision could lead to a flurry of litigation, as same-sex couples who have been married in other states seek divorces in Louisiana.

Like heterosexual couples, same-sex spouses can have complex and contentious partings, but those splits have been managed without state laws that prescribe how marital property and child custody is to be handled, Hoffman said.

"This Supreme Court decision is going to open up a lot of potential litigation," Hoffman said. "We don't even know what is going to happen. When does their community property regime begin? Does it begin on Friday? Does it begin when they got married? We've got a lot of legal issues that have to be settled."

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Old 06-30-2015, 06:38 PM
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Re: First Same-sex Divorce in New Orleans Comes Before First Marriage

This isn't news. New Orleans has been making good on its promise of "Come Married, Leave Divorced" for over 200 years now.

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