Last month, senior Judge James J. Fitzgerald III ruled that a same-sex couple joined in a civil union in Vermont could get divorced in Pennsylvania, reports Matt Miller in a PennLive article.
Freyda Neyman and Florence Buckley entered into a civil union in 2002, but separated after five months.
When the couple sought to formally dissolve their union in 2014, Philadelphia County family court judge Margaret Theresa Murphy ruled that she could not grant them a divorce, as divorces only apply to married couples. Murphy felt their union was not equivalent to a marriage since officials had historically handled unions and marriages separately.
Neyman and Buckley subsequently took their case to Pennsylvania’s superior court, where Fitzgerald overturned Murphy’s ruling.
Fitzgerald noted that after Vermont legalized equal marriage in 2009, the state passed laws allowing couples to easily convert civil unions into marriages, and required people to dissolve civil unions before marrying others.
Fitzgerald also voiced concern that Murphy’s ruling could lead to discrimination: “Declining to acknowledge the parties’ civil union as the equivalent of marriage would essentially penalize the parties simply for their same-sex status because the Vermont civil union statute explicitly granted same-sex couples equivalent rights to those only available to opposite-sex couples through marriage at that time.”
Read the original PennLive article here.