Bound in a Gay Union by a State Denying It

First a same-sex union in Vermont, then a split. Trying to dissolve the union led to State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

Comments: 74

  1. Really! you can't have it both ways. Marriage is not an a la carte menu-you were very glad to marry in Vermont when it suited you; you cannot then pick and choose which parts of the marriage contract you wish to apply to you. The right to marry also confers legal responsibilities on both parties.Didn't occur to you to check out Vermont law re dissolution of marriage before you married there?

  2. Newsflash: You didn't stop being a lesbian. You are/were either

    1) Bisexual
    2) Still gay and in denial
    3) Never gay

    Don't encourage the lunatics that say people can effectively change their sexual orientations.

  3. Wow - you sound like a normal American now! Here in the good old USA about 60% of us are divorced - but we are free to marry who we want, based on where we live! Sort of a segregated thing here; you know, like back in the early part of the 20th century, after slavery was abolished!

  4. This article is incredible! Such a ridiculous dilemma. I guess I should say "congratulations" for your divorce :).

    On a related note, I really don't understand all these states that think gay marriage isn't going to eventually happen there, too. It seems like it's being legalized in a similar order to the states that outlawed slavery....

  5. It's not that you're "no longer a lesbian" - either you never were one or, at best, you're bisexual. "Tourists" who jump into lesbian or gay relationships out of curiosity, confusion or some combination thereof shouldn't identify as "hasbians" or use any other "ex-gay" moniker - all you do is lend credibility to idiots who think being gay or lesbian is a "lifestyle" that one can opt out of.

  6. This is an incredibly thoughtful article about what it means to relish and treasure the civil freedoms that so many of us take for granted. I am glad that NY State has come to its senses on this issue. And I am grateful to Ms. Hartman for sharing her personal experience and deep wisdom.

  7. A lovely, heartfelt essay. Nobody else has lived the author's life, and she is entitled to define her sexual identity as she feels she has lived and experienced it. More importantly, she movingly describes the real human costs that unequal legal treatment of same-sex relationships has had on her and her loved ones. This essay illustrates more clearly than I have ever seen why a "civil union" will never be equal to a marriage.

  8. I am confused by the term "hasbian" though the glibness is amusing. I always thought the gay and lesbian community struggled to be seen as such by way of core identity. If you had divorced your wife to be single, would you be a nobian? Are you saying that you had sexual feelings for women exclusively and now for men exclusively? If you had a boyfriend in college, were you straight then, and queer only during the time you dated and were married to your ex-wife? Did you convert from homosexuality while married when you realized you began seeing a man? Since you have had sexual feelings for both, why are you uncomfortable identifying as bisexual? That would seem to make the most sense and it is very strange (and if I were your ex-wife I would find it very insulting) to say you were a lesbian and are now a heterosexual.

  9. Triona, re-read the essay. No one asks those questions of heterosexual couples. They don't have to jump through these hoops because every U.S. state recognize both marriages and divorces contracted in all other U.S. states (and all other nations, for that matter). It's a convenience that most of the population takes for granted, and its importance becomes apparent only in a case such as this one.

    And let me add that I found the author's sexual orientation irrelevant to her dilemma. She found herself in a legal dilemma because New York's and Vermont's legal systems couldn't agree on whether or not a marriage existed.

  10. Sexuality is a lot more fluid than people think, but it's not freely chosen as the religious right would have it, either. What is a choice is whether or not to act on our sometimes contradictory desires.

  11. Looks like all of the various parties to the two marriages are now happy. Not so some of the readers of this thoughtful, intelligent article. Loosen up, guys. All she is saying is that the evolution of legal marriage in this country has a long way to go. She did not attempt to define various gender identities, she was just telling her own personal story.
    I wish everyone mentioned in this article, a long happy life with whomever they choose.

  12. It appears that the author's creation of a title for her sexual identity reflects the discomfort of how society may perceive her or have the "need" to label her, another indicator of unequal civil liberties.
    I also believe that the line about feeling as a second class citizen truly echoes feelings of the immigrant population here in the States. Another jarring parallel, just due to one's sexuality, while being a citizen of our country, but not a social citizen, perhaps.
    What an elucidating and honest article. Thank you. Your 6+ years of work have set a helpful precedent for others who need to dissolve their marriages for any reason. Though I wish happy, healthy marriages for all, the legal elasticity in the matter of marriage is necessary.

  13. Why do gays think that they control the dialogue on orientation? They don't. They know nothing more than anyone else but how dare anyone question gayness unless they're gay? Gays are not the arbiter of anyone else's choices.

    Tough if you don't like that people don't agree with your terms but get over it - you are threatened, so threatened because you know you've got that lingering question.

    The hostility toward someone who dares to say they are a former lesbian is outrageous. Gays don't control the conversation. Its time we realized that. How crazy is this - gays are the morality police and we listen to them define sexuality? Are we insane as a society? We are if we give credence to this.

  14. Gay, bisexual, lesbian, homosexual, heterosexual. They are all labels which limit the true nature of sexual expression, which is far more fluid than even the people arguing that Ms. Hartman not identify as a "hasbian" since that's food for the lunatics. Actually, your acceptance of the the labels is giving into the existing power structure. This is a heartfelt, personal story of one woman's struggles with love and loss and how it has been treated unequally by the law. I'm happy for her that she found what she considers a true love which, by doing the math, has already lasted longer than her first marriage. I could care less that she used to be married to a woman and is now married to a man. If we'd actually let go of the labels entirely, then we wouldn't have all this DOM nonsense to begin with.

  15. Could you take a wild guess at why Vermont would have such strict rules about breaking the civil union? It's so people dont just jump through every loophole they can find just because they can.

    I am glad that in the end, things worked out, but make no mistake.. YOU put YOURSELF in this situation and have no one to blame but yourself.

    I have always been a HUGE supporter of Gay Marriage, but your story is honestly the best argument I have seen for the other side... It's rather clear how you view (or at least viewed) the seriousness of Marriage.

  16. I'm confused...how did you "used to be a Lesbian"? Wait, maybe you're confused.

  17. The one obviously anti-gay rant above, and the others somewhat more ambiguous, were fueled by Ms. Hartman's choice of words. It is impossible to imagine that she has no idea that "hasbian" has great power both to encourage bigots and to demean and offend gay women and men. And my oh my, she's "proud" to be a "hasbian," as if to say that she wasn't proud of being gay, which, subliminally, actually encourages anti-gay bigotry. But Ms. Hartman seriously gives away the game when she says she felt an "avalanche of approval" while holding a man's hand in a restaurant. Does this imply she felt an avalanche of disapproval at holding a woman's hand? If she lives in New York, there aren't many restaurants where anyone would notice, let alone disapprove, so it sounds like the disapproval was coming from Ms. Hartman herself, not those around her. And why on earth is an adult so concerned about the approval of strangers anyway? At heart it's difficult to imagine, based on everything we know about human emotions and sexuality, that her life is quite as merrily uncomplicated and storybook-cheerful as she makes it sound, and one also has to wonder if it's okay to quote a child who has a right to a private life until old enough to decide otherwise. Ms. Hartman describes herself as a playwright. Well, methinks the lady doth protest way too much. Perhaps this is too cynical, but one can't help wondering if this warm, cuddly, and totally preposterous piece might be a bid for a book contract or attention from drama critics. Whatever it's a bid for, it leaves a decidedly unpleasant aftertaste of precisely the kind of bigotry that its author purports to be arguing against. This is a very sad piece.

  18. There's no such thing as being "ex-gay" or "ex-lesbian"; and I doubt that she suddenly discovered that she was actually heterosexual. That NEVER happens. It sounds more like, "I'm tired of being ostracized by society, so I'll pretend to be straight and see how that works out." At one point, she talks about how odd it was to not be scrutinized at restaurants, and how awkward it was dealing with taxi cab drivers, and even holding hands was an ordeal.

    I understand why she wants to live a more mainstream lifestyle. (Living as an openly gay person is extraordinarily difficult.) But at least she should be honest about why she's doing it.

  19. What an amazing story!

  20. Great article. In Massachusetts, where I practice law, we have been able to dissolve Vermont civil unions by equity actions. But in some states, especially in "red" states with their own DOMA laws and restrictive divorce court rulings it's not possible. Not being able to get divorced across state lines is one of the worst aspects of DOMA. The (so far) lack of an equal protection U.S. Supreme Court ruling that repeals DOMA and prohibits marriage discrimination based on sexual orientation is causing these problems. Kudos to you, your husband, and your former spouse. You all did great. By the way, this is the first time I saw the expression "hasbian". Very cute.

  21. A lovely, thoughtful and heart felt article. Everyone behaved well, and learned how to live with respect and affection despite a difficult and confusing situation.

  22. As a gay man, I consider having a civil inion or getting married a very serious undertaking and find that you and your female partner (it seems necessary to make the distinction in this case) to have acted in a cavalier manner to begin with, a bit like "that sound like fun". You appear to be commenting on the unnecessary difficulty and inconvenience of getting divorced, it should be difficult and inconvenient to get divorced, hopefully that difficulty will keep people who are considering getting legally bound think twice. I found your story to be frivolous, foolish and the use of legal aid to help you out of your problem to have been a waste of a scarce resource, free legal aid.

  23. Hasbian. As Peter (#2) said, no, more like a Kinsey 3 or 4. YOU WERE NEVER A LESBIAN, Karen, and this, because of that, is (in a benign interpretation) just a sad story. Unless, of course, you're pursuing Marcus Bachmann's agenda, and just wait until you see how often this will be cross-linked to "reparative therapy" sites within the next week.

  24. The dilemma faced here is crazy. No one should be in this legal limbo. Virginia doesn't recognize my same sex marriage. Has it weakened my marriage or other peoples' unions? No. Virginia, you have strengthened our resolve to work through difficulties and prejudice. In the end, we are a loving married couple. As for the term "hasbian", I find it glib and juvenile.

  25. Radie, she could have married in NY because it did not recognize the VT marriage. But she did not because she DID view the seriousness of marriage, and viewed her first marriage serious enough to want it legally dissolved before she remarried. Beyond that, I have no idea what your first two sentences are supposed to mean.

  26. I find your language to be a bit curious - you say you were "unable" to dissolve your marriage. That's false, you could have moved to Vermont for one year (five less than the six you said it took to sort this out) and had the union dissolved. South VT to New Haven is a long and tedious commute, but it's not impossible.

    I'm elated and relieved that New York has legalized gay marriage, but you chose not to get a lesbian divorce, you weren't incapable of doing it.

  27. This article offers a strong argument that the government has no business offering marriage licenses to anybody and that civil marriage should be abolished once and for all.

  28. I have decidedly mixed feelings about Ms. Hartman's plight. Yes, it's unfair that she wasn't able to divorce with the same ease as a person in a heterosexual marriage. Marriage equality is important, and so is divorce equality. At the same time, when she entered the CU, the legal responsibilities of that CU were not a mystery, nor were the VT residency requirements. I realize people enter into unions thinking love will last forever, but that doesn't absolve one from the responsibility of knowing what you're getting into. Did she have no inkling she might become a "hasbian"? Did the residency requirement not give her pause?

    And now, the same person who was discriminated against in her CU with a woman, will face no such discrimination in her marriage with a man. Now, she will be entitled to full federal marriage benefits and a much easier time divorcing, should this union also fail. The discrimination Ms. Hartman faced--but only when she was a lesbian--pales beside the discrimination all gay couples continue to face, even if their relationships prove more lasting and successful than hers. Until married gay couples have full federal marriage (and divorce) equality, they don't have the option of becoming equal citizens. How ridiculous is it that becoming a "hasbian" was this writer's ticket to full equality?

  29. To those who commented that the author was too cavalier in jumping into her lesbian marriage because it didn't last: have you looked at heterosexual marriage stats lately? Expecting same-sex couples to treat marriage any differently than hetero couples is a mean-spirited double standard.

  30. "...married in haste, we may repent at leisure." (William Congreve)

    There are lots of ways that "normal" divorces can take a long time -- my first wife moved overseas, oscillating between school in England and research in remote South America. We were graduate students without much money and so were at the mercy of hippy-dippy lawyers, who worked cheaply but slowly. Our no-issues no-fault no-property divorce took several years.

  31. Excellent and insightful article by Karen Hartman addressing why this is an equal protection issue, and why we should all have access to the same contract with "the state."
    Some of these comments are also fascinating in that they reveal the hurtful cultural obsession with "fixed sexual identity." Having the freedom to self identify, to express one's sexual and affectional attractions (whether they seem to us fluid or stable), and to have contracts based on those affinities affirmed by the state lies at the heart of this matter. Those are broad based freedoms that should be protected civil right.

  32. What a legal nightmare. You all handled it extraordinarily well, and it must have been extremely stressful. Congratulations on your divorce and remarriage. My partner and I chose not to have a Vermont civil union, partly because of the residency requirement for dissolution, even though we did not anticipate "divorce," and remain together after 30+ years together. Similarly, we did not get married in Massachusetts because of residency requirements initially. We wanted to get married where we live now, in New Jersey. So, we got a domestic partnership, then a few years later when it was possible, we got a civil union. The civil union is supposed to equal marriage at the state level, but it remains poorly recognized and problematic. We are still waiting for full marriage recognition in our state. But most importantly, we need federal marriage recognition and rights to reach anything approaching actual equal civil rights.

  33. According to Jewish law, (Halacha) her son was and is not a bastard. This is not even a Jewish word/concept. A child born to an unmarried woman is, according to Jewish law, accepted. If a married woman has a child from an adulterous union, the child is called a "mamzeh." This does not apply here.
    I'm confused about her "Jewish divorce." Did a Rabbi tell her she needed one?If so, I'm wondering why. A Jewish divorce is called a "get." A wife receives it from her (male) husband. This renders her divorced according to Jewish law. If she remarries without a get and has children, they are considered "Mamzehs" in Jewish law.

  34. This comment is mostly in response to the harsh comments about sexuality.
    For me:
    Sexuality is greyer than people would like to admit.
    I do not see how one person's sexuality and choices should undermine another person's sexuality or lifestyle.
    Those "gay/lesbian" folks who fear their own sexuality is undermined by another person who doesn't fit their definition are the same as those "straight" people who can't handle anyone else's version of sexuality.
    "Hey Kettle, you're black." said Pot.

  35. A beautiful piece about the unexpected ways lack of full citizenship warp the lives of the disenfranchised. Nice job Ms. Hartman.

    I'm sad though to read through these comments and see two troubling strains:

    One is how many are uncomfortable with the fluidity of sexuality. I realize many LGBTQ advocates are loathe to address this issue, instead arguing that sexual orientation is immutable like race. But we won't have true equality until we stop worrying about *why* people love who they do and just allow them to love.

    The other troubling strain is this ugly puritanism that demonizes folks (especially women) who leave a marriage. Humans make mistakes. We change our minds. Our hearts surprise us. The writer did what over 50% of the population does. She left her first marriage. Why she did so is a private concern. That NY State did not allow her to divorce for six years? -- now that's an injustice we should all seek to redress.

  36. Ms. Hartman's continuing good will toward the LGBT community seems heartfelt, and she makes good points about the absurdities of a two-tier, separate, and unequal system. I agree, however, with those who fear the unintended consequences of announcing that one has been a "lesbian" but is now in love with and married to a man. (I also agree with those who caution against labels, but think it's unrealistic to disavow them entirely in this culture.)

    Ms. Hartman may have lived as a lesbian, but she likely always had the potential to fall in love with a man, and that makes her something other than a lesbian. I don't care what that is, and wish her well in her marriage to Todd, but for most who identify as gay or lesbian heterosexual marriage has never been and never will be a viable choice.

  37. Wow, there is a lot of anger in these comments. I've always thought the "you're either gay, bi, or your not" argument was as asinine as the fundamentalist argument against homosexuality. You love who you happen to love and that is the end of it.

  38. So are we all just supposed to ignore the blinding unrealistic "fact" here that this individual magically turned from lesbian to straight without any confusion or problems OTHER then the divorce? Sexuality is fluid, but it is extremely unusual for someone to completely abandon their sexual identity after being in a long term gay relationship and then switch to a normal heterosexual relationship. It seems like this has been the theme of many NYTimes articles. Whats the agenda here?

  39. I doubt the writer meant to imply solidarity with the religious ex-gay movement, but I do think challenging the term 'hasbian' is valid, even if it's used humorously. Lots of people define their sexuality on the basis of whatever-they're-doing-now. If you're used to the blanket acceptance sexual fluidity has in queer circles, it can be a bit startling to realize that in the wider world, every tiny thing you say about your sexuality is politicized and read as representative. This is especially true if you publish a piece in the Times rather than some blog only your friends read. Even now, to deny that the personal is political is to be in a state of denial.

    I actually don't enjoy that fact, and in fact have severe issues with it. However, it's pretty much true. The fact is, you can't get away with saying 'this is just a personal story' in this context, and context matters. This was published in the New York Times(!), and it was published as a personal story meant to demonstrate a social truth about the importance of divorce rights. The personal was always meant to be political, or it wouldn't have had a place in the paper.

    So. People who say 'none of your business' or calling people who have issues with the term 'hasbian' the 'gay morality police' are also making a political statement. I say this even with the awareness that it's possible to experience one's bisexuality in an all-or-nothing way; rare but possible. If someone could 'realize' they were gay after 40, after years of marriage and self-deception,which is a typical story, certainly one can realize one is straight after 30-- why not? People aren't always very self-aware, and our identities are often shaped by a number of factors. Some people simply like very strong labels, so even if they're bisexual, it's too 'wishy-washy' of a label so they'd never feel at ease with it. Some people need to divide the world into 'queer' and 'not queer'. It's human.

    However, it doesn't change the fact that it's political.

  40. While I appreciate your legal dilemma, I take issue (as many others have) with your description of yourself as being a former Lesbian.

    I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household and was all but disowned by my parents and my so called friends from yeshiva high school when I came out at 18 years of age. I tried for years to find a way to get around the whole thing, to "fix" myself so that I'd be "normal." I even got married to a woman when I was 26 because I was desperate for the so called "normal" life. That marriage was a disaster which lasted four months. I'm now 37 and I still live a double life.

    I finally decided a few years ago that for my own sanity I had to give up on being Orthodox. I now consider myself a Reform Jew, but even today, I still keep a kosher home and the two or three people I'm still in touch with from my days of being Orthodox still maintain the fiction that I'm Orthodox and that I live alone because my marriage was a disaster and not because I'm gay and trying to find a boyfriend and hopefully, someday, a husband.

    So why am I sharing all this? The reason is simple: while I appreciate your struggles to get out of a marriage that no longer worked for you, I wish you'd understand that if you are truly interested only in men now then you were probably never a lesbian to begin with. Or perhaps you are a bisexual. However, this business of calling yourself a "hasbian" is just insulting to those of us who spent years tortured by the experience of being gay and finding it incompatible with the way were brought up.

  41. This article wonderfully supports gay marriage by turning the "issue" inside out.

  42. I have no sympathy for this woman. This article is all about achieving her wants and desires at the expense of her ex-partner, who she cheated on. The 'hasbian' thing also irritated me and shows a lack of respect for the LGBT community. I am a lesbian and have never felt sexual desire for a man but if I did, I would honestly call myself a bisexual and not an 'hasbian.'

  43. Women's sexuality changes throughout our lives. Maybe she identified as a lesbian before, now she identifies as straight. That doesn't mean she'll never again have another same-sex relationship. Who cares what her sexual identity is? The point is, she has the right to get married, and she has the same right to get divorced. To a man OR a woman.

  44. I respect Ms. Hartman and her choices -- but more importantly, it took a lot to share such a personal story with the wider public considering this subject is still (to some extent) taboo.

    I applaud her courage and the desire to 'do right' in a very public manner, rather than just papering over things. That's much more than I can say for some people I've seen in my life regardless of orientation.

    The underlying point of the piece is not lost on me, though. There is definitely a ways to go still to make this situation universally a non-issue.

    Here's to hoping this gap in true equality will eventually be corrected, much like how the civil rights movement of decades ago needed some time to fully percolate nationally.

  45. I once heard a comedian say something close to the following:
    "Of course, gays should be allowed to marry; they should have the right to be as miserable as the rest of us [heteros]".

  46. 1. The author did not invent the term "hasbian"- this has been an expression for "ex-lesbians" for a while
    2. One could argue that there is such a thing as a "hasbian," a woman who previously believed herself to be a lesbian (exclusively attracted to women), who then later found herself to be attracted to a man. It is unlikely these periods of life can be so starkly defined- I doubt that people frequently, truly moves from exclusively straight to exclusively gay, or vice vera. I agree that this term is somewhat unhelpful, but it does reflect the way that people leap from one strict definition of their sexuality to one equally as strict, and perhaps mock it for the better. Did the author ever claim she was now straight? No, merely that she is in a heterosexual relationship. If anything, the author seems able to express, and accept, the fluidity of sexuality, or, dare I say, love.

  47. Picking up on the comment in 33 "If a married woman has a child from an adulterous union, the child is called a "mamzeh."

    While we're talking about injustices, consider the treatment of mamzers in Jewish law. They are not permitted to marry Jews who are not mamzers, for example. That's a whole level of injustice up from dealing with the consequences of one's own actions, like the author.

  48. The writer's delightful but slightly weird story, with her "I'm no longer a Lesbian" assertion, would have benefited from a slight notation that female sexuality appears to be fairly fluid, but for Gay men this stuff is life and death.

    I've seen the death. I'm sorry she chose not to include it. We don't marry women after we marry men.

    But I'm glad for her ex-partner's punchline and the celebration in the hallway. That's how Gay people divorce; we don't have knockdown-dragouts in a courtroom. Years later we say, "Honey, this is the cutie I spent that happy time with."

  49. Not sure where Poster #3 comes up with the claim that "60% of us in the good ole USA are divorced". According to the 2000 US Census, 59% of Americans are married, 24% are never married, 10% are divorced, and 7% are widowed.

  50. I'm not very sympathetic over your "plight" (well, past plight). You scream and yell for your "rights", you get them, and then scream and yell that those "rights" have rules that you don't like, that aren't "convenient". Tough.

    JimF from Sewell

  51. I don't understand this. The GLBT lobby, community, scientific and medical community all tell us that gayness is an inherent unchangeable state yet you converted or morphed from lesbianism to heterosexualism. Anne Heche if I recall did too. What is going on here? Anyone or any group or agency that has offered counseling to gay or lesbian oriented individuals who were either ambivalent or troubled about their sexual orientation have largely been condemned or attacked if they offered some alternative path to either heterosexuality or asexuality, like Michelle Bachmann and her husband (who do so from a religious perspective). Perhaps you could shed some light on this controversy.

  52. @M. Silverman (#33): 1) the word is "mamzer", not "mamzeh"; 2) you could use some backgrounding on the topic, as much of your description is incorrect.

  53. Can we please have some stories about gay people who don't have funky jobs? Thanks.

  54. I have to look back at my own growth and acceptance of myself as a gay man in order to sort my feelings on this whole discussion. When I was first dealing with my sexuality: (like most people I assume), I was confused in denial, etc. However when I got the courage to come out and self-identify as being gay- ironically I found that things were either black or white you were either gay or straight and bi-sexuality was a crutch. But the more comfortable I was with myself, the more I understood my own sexuality and that it is more fluid than what I have experienced, I have no problem with the a person running through the whole continuum; whether it be as a crutch (people deal with things on their own time) or as truly bisexual.

    At the same time, I do see how the word "hasbian," and the experience of the author can be used to fuel the arguments of the "ex-gay" ilk. However, I have witnessed ruthlessness on the part of gay+lesbians as well in how they deal with ambiguousness in sexuality.

    I must say, I will probably never experience the same type of path as the author. My orientation feels pretty anchored on the "most definitely gay side," but to those that are more fluid, or even on the "most definitely straight side," more power to you I say!

  55. I've heard that the prospect of gay marriage becoming the law of the land (which I hope will happen soon) has divorce lawyers salivating.

  56. The parties in Parker v Waronker (30 Misc.3d 917; 918 NYS2d 822, Onondaga Cty Supreme Ct. 10/21/2010, J. Young) dissolved their Vermont civil union using the New York State court's pro se uncontested divorce forms available free on the NYS Unified Court System website. One party resided in NY, the other party resided in OH, neither could return to Vermont for the requisite year. There were no children and no property issues.

  57. I am really so over this being news...

    Of course it's good that people can marry whom they love, but enough of the media blare over it.

    Stop making every gay incident a story when it simply isn't.

    It's not even a fun anecdote anymore.

  58. I'm all for consenting adults to be able to enter into whatever relationship they so choose, but I am terribly dismayed at the lack of a serious movement in the country to reject the very notion of the state should be at all involved in the recognition of romantic partnership. To the extent to which we want to make those unrelated to us by blood "family" I can see "plus one" designations that expire unless renewed, but I don't see why gays (like me) should want to enter into a system of marital apartheid whereby couples get extra status over the uncoupled. We should be at the forefront of a libertarian movement to question why the state has any business in making or breaking up couples at all. I find it particularly sad that Ms Hartman didn't learn from her experience. A civil union didn't keep you and your girlfriend together, neither will it keep you and your husband together--and if it does, a piece of paper is a sorry reason for it.

  59. I love to read the gay morality monitors afoot in the comments here: Ms. Hartman cannot have been a lesbian and changed (back?) to hetero - even if she reports that she did! Her own story is wrongly told, ie. it failed to use the correct gender terms required by the gayness police. I love it.
    Pax vobiscum, Ms. Hartman.

  60. I think that one must define sexual orientation with more depth than not feeling embarrased holding one's same sex partner's hand in a restaurant. Eric (above) has it right. This is the search for identity, which may be fluid, confusing, painful, joyful, but is never shallow and glib. Perhaps such identify is shallow and glib.... All in all, marriage and divorce laws ought to provide equal opportunity for the gay, the straight, the profound and the shallow. Such is life.

  61. It'll be a great day in this country when people are not assigned labels based on who they have romantic relationships with, and individual sexual identity is not the basis for legislation. Marriage should be a personal decision between two people, not the basis for a variety of legal rights and benefits. Instead of pushing to expand civil marriage to all, we should be working on a way for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or relationship status, to have access to the same set of legal rights.

  62. This article was really well done. I didn't even think about the legal limbo described. Thank you for sharing your story. I would love to read more articles by you.

  63. Wow, I'm really stunned by the bigotry in these comments. The two most recommended comments are berating the author for identifying as a "hasbian" even though she should know (!) that her only choices are bisexual, lesbian in denial, or straight, previously in denial. Or the one that informs her that the real reason she got her divorce is because she was a self-hater, which you can tell because she felt uncomfortable holding hands with a woman. Or that she is a spoiled brat because she expects that getting a gay divorce should be as easy as getting a straight one (one person goes so far as to say that she could choose to live in southern Vermont for a year and commute to Yale).

    The people who insist that sexual orientation is immutable are as much zealous fundamentalists who those who say it can be changed through prayer. Get a grip, people.

  64. This person could have told her story without the unnecessary homophobic undertones - or sometimes not so undertone, such as using the extremely offensive made up word "hasbian." The effect of this confusion of a difficult legal situation with her personal whims diminishes the force of what could have been an interesting article. As it is, I recommend to the Times Public Editor that you need a better working editor on such articles.

  65. Heterosexual marriage. No divorce. Fewer problems (at least, not this kind. Worked for us for 58 years (so far).

  66. I am really tired of people who flog their personal business. My reaction to Karen's messy marital history is who cares?

    This isn't about marriage equality- which I fully endorse.

    This is just another self-absorbed person who thinks the rest of the world is interested in her life.

  67. Perhaps Vermont should have the same strict residency laws regarding same-sex unions as they do for divorce. That would have solved Ms. Hartman's problem right there! I am so happy for her that her "lifelong vows" have now been voided or erased or whatever by a New York judge. Her conscience is now clear! Yippee!

  68. How strict were the residency requirements? I mean, since both of you wanted an end to the civil union, couln't you both have moved to Vermont for a year or so? Get an apartment or two and commute.

  69. The legal issues here are compellingly ironic-- the uneven laws about same-sex unions limit the ability of same sex couples to move, travel and negotiate normal life transitions. None of us who are on the front lines of the fight for same-sex marriage are surprised by the injustices marriage inequality visits on gay and straight couples alike.

    The author's description of her experience, however, is less compelling: "hasbian?" -- "bastard?" As bisexual in a same-sex marriage, I just can't let that kind of terminology pass without comment. Those words reflect a heteronormative focus on traditional families that *used* to stand in stark contrast to the ideals of sex-positive LGBT activists. The sex radicals in the LGBT community have mostly taken backseat to the marriage activists, which is completely understandable. But that doesn't excuse us from defending non-traditional relationships, or the individual's right to self-define their sexual orientation, regardless of their relationship history.

    The legitimacy of a relationship doesn't depend on its legal status. The legitimacy of a child doesn't depend on the marital status of his parents. And leaving a man to be with a woman doesn't make someone a "hasbian". Following your heart isn't selling out. I don't know if Kate Hartman did, or does, identify as gay, straight, or bisexual, but the words sho chose to use in her article smack of internalized homophobia (biphobia?) and poorly concealed self-loathing. I wish the author had found a better language in which to tell her story, or I wish the Times had found a less conflicted writer to bring attention to these issues.

    As far as this author goes, Hartman's personal journey seems like a far more interesting story, and a far more important issue for her, than the relatively shallow legal dilemma.

  70. Tina Turner: "What's Love gotta do with it?..."
    Elvis Presley: "Wise men said, only fools rush in ..."
    Ricky Nelson: "Fools rush in, where wise men never go. But wise men never fall in love..."

    How very true the Buddhist notion of human condition. The Buddha spoke of the Four Noble Truths. First the bad news: Human existence is unsatisfactory and prone to grief, pain and suffering. More importantly, the cause of this grief and suffering is cravings and desires. The good news is: there is a way to put an end to the mess, and that's by removing the cause, gradually.

    The difficult part of the Buddha's teaching is this: people can't handle the truth. So while Buddhists have no problem with marriages, same-sex or traditional, they also know the shaky nature of unions, as borne out by census statistics. But people have to live and learn life's lessons for themselves. Let it be.

  71. As a lawyer who worked on one of the marriage equality cases, I find this piece wonderfully illuminating. As lawyers on the case, we spent a lot of time contemplating the distinction (and as the comments to this piece illustrate, sometime tension) between group rights on the one hand and individual rights on the other. The ideas that we must protect group and individual rights are found in two constitutional values. The first value, embodied in the phrase "equal protection," is that we don't let the government treat socially disfavored groups like second-class citizens. The second value, embodied in the word "liberty," is that we insist that each person must be about to breathe free in his or her own life. I tend to think of these interests separately, but with her story Ms. Hartman has knit them closely together. She has shown through her own example how the government's insistence on maintaining the disfavored status of an unpopular group (same-sex couples) can impact the liberty of those outside the group (herself, her new husband, her son). She has helped us understand that our national values of equality and liberty are interconnected and even mutually reinforcing. As a constitutional litigator, I appreciate her insights. Finally, as a person breathing free in her own same-sex marriage, I applaud Ms. Hartman's unflinching honesty, bravery, and humility.

  72. The writer didn't coin the word "hasbian." Google it.

  73. We should be getting the state out of our lives, no0t further in it. Instead of adding more to the corrupt legal and political docket, all relationships should come under one category, and leave the religious stuff out of it. That's equality. Gays and straights do not interchange, there are fundamental differences to the dynamics, and straight laws aren;t going to handle gay problems very well.

  74. "Used to be" a lesbian? Some would argue that's as likely as "used to be Black." The author raises a valid point about gay marriages and divorce, but unfortunately, my scorn kept blurring the page. I think her former wife's send-off was wisdom and not just a classy punch line.