Summersgill endorses civil marriage dissolution equality amendment
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Summersgill endorses civil marriage dissolution equality amendment

Testimony before the D.C. Council
Committee on the Judiciary
on the "Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Amendment Act of 2011," B19-0526

December 8, 2011

Chairman Mendelson:

Thank you for introducing this legislation. My name is Bob Summersgill. I am the ANC Commissioner for 3F07, and a long-time advocate for gay rights and marriage equality. Thanks also to the bill's co-sponsors, Mary Cheh, David Catania, Tommy Wells, Muriel Bowser, Michael Brown, Jim Graham, Harry Thomas, Jr., and Kwame Brown.

The legislation addresses a problem with uneven laws across the country regarding marriage rights. Only a handful of states are up to the District's standard of human rights. In states with laws promoting anti-gay discrimination, divorce of legally married same-sex couples is not an option.

Marriage matters when something goes wrong. A spouse gets sick, dies, or there is a divorce. The equitable division of assets, rights, and responsibilities in an orderly fashion is a major benefit of marriage. While a divorce may seem messy, it is preferable to separating without the benefit of law or the recourse offered by the courts.

Four years ago, yesterday, a lesbian couple trying to divorce in Rhode Island were rejected by the state Supreme Court in a 3-2 decision. The Rhode Island couple, Margaret Chambers and Cassandra Ormiston were married in Massachusetts in 2004 and sought a divorce two years later. The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that they could not receive a divorce since marriage there is defined as the union between a man and a woman. Neither woman wants to move to Massachusetts—or another state—and establish residency for six months before seeking a divorce.

In order to maintain basic dignity for couples married in the District, and unable to divorce in their home state, this bill is necessary. If we offer civil marriage, we must offer civil divorce.

I am available for any questions you may have.

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