Going Directly From a Civil Union to a Gay Marriage? Stop. Do Not Pass Go. Return to Divorce Court Immediately.

Gay Husband and Friend enter a civil union in Vermont. Their relationship breaks down over time and Husband moves on.

To Massachusetts, which allows same sex marriages. And Husband then marries Groom there.

Four years later, that relationship breaks down and Husband files for divorce. And this is where it gets interesting.

Groom denies the divorce claim, asserting that their marriage is void and invalid due to Husband’s previous civil union, which was never legally dissolved. Rendering Husband’s marriage to Groom bigamous, Groom contends.

Arguably, the fact that Vermont first legalized civil unions for gay partners and subsequently legalized gay marriage for gay partners supports the argument that civil unions and marriages are not the same thing.

But this case wends its way to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Which holds that the Vermont civil union is the equivalent of marriage and did indeed need to be dissolved prior to marrying in Massachusetts.

In Masssachusetts at least, bigamy laws are not confined to heterosexual marriages.

And, if Massachusett’s ruling is adopted elsewhere, those who formally enter into civil unions will no longer be able to simply pick up and leave without attending to the legal formalities of dissolution.

Read more in this Wall Street Journal piece: Massachusetts Court: Civil Union “Equivalent” To Marriage.