updated 10/9/2007 3:32:37 PM ET 2007-10-09T19:32:37

A lesbian couple married in Massachusetts should have the same right as heterosexual couples to divorce in their home state of Rhode Island, lawyers for the women told the state’s highest court Tuesday.

Cassandra Ormiston and Margaret Chambers were married in 2004 after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. Last year, the couple filed for divorce in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island law is silent on the legality of same-sex marriages.

If the women can’t divorce in Rhode Island, their lawyers said the only legal avenue available to them would be for at least one to move to Massachusetts and live there long enough to obtain a divorce.

“It is an absolutely unfair burden,” Ormiston said outside Rhode Island’s Supreme Court. “It is a burden no one else is asked to bear, and it is something I will not do.”

Lawyers for the women told the Supreme Court the only question to consider was whether Rhode Island could recognize a valid same-sex marriage from another state for the sole purpose of granting a divorce petition.

They stressed the case has no bearing on whether gay couples could get married in Rhode Island.

“You have a valid marriage in the state of Massachusetts,” Louis Pulner, an attorney for Chambers, told the justices. “No one is asking the court to address the question of whether such marriages would be valid in Rhode Island.”

Judge: Mass. can wed R.I. couples
In September 2006, a Massachusetts judge decided same-sex couples from Rhode Island could marry in Massachusetts because nothing in Rhode Island law specifically banned gay marriage. But the courts and the legislature in Rhode Island have not taken any action to recognize same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts.

Attorney General Patrick Lynch earlier this year issued a nonbinding advisory opinion saying the state would recognize same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts.

The justices did not indicate when they would rule.

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