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Vermont civil union void, Roanoke County judge says

A Roanoke County Circuit Court has declared void a civil union two women established in Vermont in 2002 before living in Virginia.

Teresa Austin and Rebekah Austin lived together in Roanoke County until March 2007. In May 2007, Teresa filed a complaint seeking to dissolve the union. Teresa said in a deposition that Rebekah had stolen money from her, and that she didn’t want to be in the relationship and didn’t want Rebekah to make any claims on her or her property “as a spouse or partner in a civil union.”

Citing Virginia’s Marriage Affirmation Act, Roanoke County Circuit Judge Cliff Weckstein declared that “within the boundaries of Virginia, the purported civil union between Teresa and Rebekah is void.” He declined to award any other relief in his May 27 decision in Austin v. Austin.

One comment

  1. I disagree with the judge’s reasoning here:

    Where does that leave Teresa Austin’s prayer or relief in this case? To an extent, the relief sought can be granted: In a suit in which this court has subject-matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction over the parties, the court finds that, within the boundaries of Virginia, the purported civil union between Teresa and Rebekah is void. No rights created by the civil union are enforceable by this or any court of this Commonwealth.

    The court is right about the unenforceability of any Vermont-created civil union rights. But Plaintiff is, substantially, seeking a divorce. As the court goes on to recite, our ironclad anti-gay laws, as expressed both in the Constitution and the Code, prevent any agency of the commonwealth from even recognizing, legally, the existence of something like the Vermont civil union. A proper analysis of this case would have concluded that Plaintiff had no standing to bring the action: an unmarried person cannot bring a petition for divorce.

    Dismissal on explicit standing grounds would also have been more helpful to courts of other states if and when the parties rejoin the dispute there – there would be no argument that the Virginia ruling precludes any factfinding or legal ruling by, say, a Vermont or Washington court.

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