Gay Divorce: The Next Big Thing

By Bill Ferguson January 23rd, 2014

From ‘‘I Do’’ to ‘‘I’m Done’’
With newfound rights, newfound fears. The peculiar mechanics—and heartbreak—of gay divorce. By Jesse Green Published Feb 24, 2013

Until recently, Kevin Muir and Sam Ritchie could have been poster boys for marriage equality: a gay couple so solid and beamish it would seem just plain ­ornery to keep them from the altar. Their entire lives together had been pointing toward legal union, in exactly the kinds of ways most people would find normal and completely unthreatening. They’d met in 1997, when Kevin,­ then 26, and Sam, then 20, both worked for a company that produced the Boston–to–New York aids bike ride. An office flirtation quickly turned to love, former boyfriends on each side were ditched, and within three months, “as New York real estate forces you to do,” Sam recalls, “we had to move out of our old apartments and move in together, and that was it.

Over the next seven years, their lives merged in all the usual ways: credit cards, work relocations, shared real estate, shared Facebook friends. At each moment it became possible to reflect their entwined reality in public terms, they leaped at the opportunity, starting with a big blowout commitment ceremony in Los Angeles in 2000, with moms making speeches. In 2003, having moved to Tucson, where Sam was appointed to the “Gay and Lesbian Commission on Blah Blah Blah,” as he puts it, they became domestic partners on the day the ordinance permitting it passed. “Basically,” Sam says, “every time we could get a piece of paper, we did.” That quest culminated on May 28, 2004, eleven days after Massachusetts became the first state to open civil marriage to same-sex couples, when Kevin and Sam stood before a justice of the peace in a restaurant across the street from Newton City Hall and solemnly uttered an updated version (through prosperity or adversity, on this day, and for the rest of your lives) of the traditional vows.

For a while, they were proud to be known, especially among their straight friends, as gay-marriage pioneers. Sam enjoyed writing feisty footnotes on his tax returns saying “I’m checking ‘single’ because you don’t recognize my marriage.” But they were different from many in that first matrimonial wave. They were still quite young (Sam 27, Kevin 33) and unencumbered. Most of those marrying had been together longer and had a more settled existence. Julie and Hillary ­Goodridge, the lead plaintiffs in the case that paved the way for marriage equality in Massachusetts, were in their late forties, for instance; among the hundreds of couples to wed in those first days, they were not so unusual in having an 8-year-old daughter to serve as their flower girl. To continue reading this article