Judge postpones ruling on Tampa couple’s request to divorce

By : Staff Report
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Tampa – A judge has postponed a decision on whether a lesbian couple should be granted a legal divorce despite their Massachusetts marriage not being recognized in the Sunshine State.

Keiba Lynn Shaw and Mariama Changamire-Shaw married in 2010, moved to Florida a year later and have now decided to split. On March 27, Judge Laurel M. Lee heard the case of the two women and asked, “How would this court have the authority to dissolve a marriage that the laws of our state do not recognize?”

The couple wants to divorce in Florida because Massachusetts law requires couples seeking legal separation to live in that state for at least a year. Attorneys for the two women argued that Florida’s ban on marriage equality doesn’t specifically prohibit divorce, and therefore their clients’ request should have been granted.

“We should not be as a state discouraging people from moving to Florida because once here they are forever married,” argued attorney Ellen Ware, who represents Changamire-Shaw. “Essentially by refusing to divorce people, we are telling them if they move here they are stuck.”

By not granting divorce, neither woman can move on with her life, argued Adam Cardover, who represents Keiba Lynn Shaw.

“They’re at a point right now where they cannot get divorced, which means that they cannot re-marry… so I’m not sure what you call it, but it’s a difficult, difficult situation,” Cordover told WSPT-TV, Tampa’s CBS affiliate.

Judge Lee said she wants to give the women a chance to have their case heard, and scheduled a hearing for April 22. This would make it likely the first divorce to challenge Florida’s same-sex marriage ban. A lawsuit filed Jan. 21 by six South Florida couples wanting their marriages recognized in the state and Equality Florida also seeks to overturn the ban. In February, the ACLU filed a similar lawsuit in Florida’s panhandle.

If their right to divorce in Florida is denied, both women in this case are prepared to take their right to divorce to the State Supreme Court, their attorneys said.

 

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