Same Sex Cohabitation Terminates Maintenance Notwithstanding Gay Marriage Ban

One of the questions we pondered as states passed DOMAs and constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage was what effect such would have on divorces between heterosexuals. Larry O’Dell,

One of the questions we pondered as states passed DOMAs and constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage was what effect such would have on divorces between heterosexuals. Larry O’Dell,
Associated Press Writer, Richmond, Va. wrote about a recent Virginia Court of Appeals ruling, Stroud v. Stroud in which same-sex cohabitation terminated a contractual obligation to pay maintenance. His story is here. Some excerpts:

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said the appeals court seemed to be treating same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples–but only in the narrow analysis of contract law, not the broader public policy context.

Chris Freund, spokesman for conservative Family Foundation of Virginia, said the ruling proves that opponents of last year’s constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriages and civil unions were wrong in claiming the measure would interfere with private contract rights.

“Today’s decision is simply about a contract between two people and has nothing to do with how the Commonwealth of Virginia defines or recognizes marriage,” he said.

But David Spratt, former chairman of the Virginia Bar Association’s Domestic Relations Section, said the ruling could have more far-reaching consequences depending on how this area of the law evolves.

“The legislature certainly does not recognize same-sex relationships as anything–they don’t even recognize the capacity of same-sex couples to contract,” said Spratt, now a legal rhetoric professor at American University, Washington College of Law. “So the fact that a court is saying a relationship between same-sex couples can be analogous to marriage is important.”

He noted that Virginia law defines adultery as sexual intercourse between a married person and someone of the opposite sex. By recognizing same-sex cohabitation, the court could provide the impetus to change the adultery law to cover homosexual acts, Spratt suggested. Such legislation died in the session that ended Saturday.

The gay-rights group Equality Virginia, which opposed the so-called “marriage amendment” that was approved by voters in November, had no immediate response to Tuesday’s ruling.

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