It was a whirlwind wedding for Bobbie and Cass. They saw the opportunity to get married, and they seized the day, racing off without coffee or breakfast or even time to comb their hair.
But like so many other couples who marry so quickly, they found themselves wanting out of the situation. Bobbie was the one who filed for divorce, only two years after the romantic dash to the courthouse; Cass still doesn't really understand why.
Married in Massachusetts, the two tried to divorce in Rhode Island, where they were living. But they hit a little snag.
Rhode Island doesn't allow same-sex marriage; Rhode Island won't grant the two women a divorce from each other.
One can, of course, see the legal problem. How does Rhode Island dissolve a type of marriage it doesn't actually recognize? Though Massachusetts allows same-sex couples from Rhode Island to marry in Massachusetts because the laws of Rhode Island don't clearly prohibit gay marriage, Rhode Island doesn't wish to have its marriage laws determined by Massachusetts by default, and thus insists that its courts don't have the legal power to grant this or any other same-sex couple a divorce.
But greater, to me, than the legal problem is the moral one. Why did the state of Massachusetts allow these two women to "marry" in the first place? Under what possible understanding of marriage, from any historical or religious or moral perspective, can two women be said to be "married" to each other?
It's a cruel trick to tell people who aren't capable of entering into an actual marriage relationship that they are "married." It's shortsighted and wrong. If marriage means anything at all other than a temporary living arrangement, it can't mean same-sex couples; and if marriage is only a more expensive and legally complicated form of temporary living arrangement, why in heavens' name would any sane same-sex couple want to participate in it?
What do I mean by "an actual marriage relationship?" I mean, of course, that bond between a man and a woman which is symbolized by their physical complementarity and realized by their actions. Their ability to engage in that specific action which usually leads to reproduction is what makes them married, and every government that has ever recognized the marriage relationship has recognized this. One may obtain a civil, not religious, annulment should one marry a person who is physically incapable of the marriage act; it is fundamental to the understanding of what marriage is that this act be possible. It should be noted that it is not necessary for a couple to be thereby capable of becoming pregnant and having children; but the act itself must be possible for them, or there is no marriage.
By this historic and long-understood legal definition of marriage, no marriage is possible between two women (or two men). There is no specific action of physical complementarity which is foundational to their relationship, or which is at least potentially capable of leading to reproduction. Regardless of what the state of Massachusetts says, two women cannot be married to each other without a redefinition of the whole notion of marriage from its fundamental and foundational principles; further, the new definition must be so legally vague as to render the entire concept of marriage completely meaningless.
Bobbie and Cass, also known as Margaret Chambers and Cassandra Ormiston, are attempting to dissolve a marriage which most legal definitions would find too absurd, from a legal standpoint, ever to have existed at all. Though it's possible to feel some sympathy for them in their current and unfathomable position, it's also important to understand that they wouldn't be in this position had the activists on the Massachusetts Supreme Court not first divorced the word "marriage" from its historic legal definition.