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A lesbian couple was denied a divorce Wednesday in Alabama because the state doesn't recognize their legal Iowa marriage.
In a one-sentence ruling issued in Huntsville, Circuit Judge Karen Hall said Michelle Richmond and Kirsten Allysse Richmond can't get a divorce in Alabama — even the uncontested one they were seeking — because they had no way to ask for one "pursuant to the laws of this State."
The Richmonds were legally married in Dubuque, Iowa, in 2012 but later moved to Alabama — which doesn't recognize same-sex marriage.
Their lawyer told The Huntsville Times that he would appeal.
"I have a lot of faith in the court system, I have a lot of faith in Judge Karen Hall and I believe she ruled the only way she is able to given the current state of the law in Alabama," attorney Patrick Hill told the Times. "It's my intention to pursue this as far as I can to see to it that the law that prevents my client from getting a divorce is reversed, and the divorce case is given back to Judge Hall."
In the meantime, the seemingly simple solution — getting divorced back in Iowa or one of the 16 other states that recognize same-sex marriage — isn't so simple.
Like nearly all states — including all of those that recognize same-sex marriage — Iowa requires one or both parties in a marriage to live in the state for a certain amount of time before a divorce can be granted.
Iowa's residency requirement is among the longest in the country, according to an NBC News review of divorce laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia: 12 months.
That means the Richmonds would have to first move back to Iowa and then live there for a full year before they could be divorced.
If they didn't want to wait that long, they could also move to Washington, which also recognizes same-sex marriages but requires only 90 days' residency to divorce. The situation is similar in Illinois, but the law recognizing same-sex marriage doesn't go into effect until June 1.
Here are the residency requirements to get divorced in the 17 states (plus D.C.) that recognize same-sex marriages:
- California — six months
- Connecticut — one year (unless "the cause for the dissolution of the marriage arose after either party moved into this state.")
- Delaware — six months
- Hawaii — six months
- Illinois — 90 days (Illinois' law recognizing same-sex marriages takes effect June 1.)
- Iowa — one year
- Maine — six months
- Maryland — one year
- Massachusetts — one year
- Minnesota — 180 days
- New Hampshire — one year
- New Jersey — one year
- New Mexico — six months
- New York — one year
- Rhode Island — one year
- Vermont — You can file after six months, but no divorce can be granted before one year
- Washington — 90 days
- Washington, D.C. — six months