01/12/2012 09:49 am ET

Same-Sex Divorce Bill Advances In D.C. Council

WASHINGTON -- As Maryland lawmakers prepare to tackle the issue of marriage equality in new legislative session, the District of Columbia is thinking about same-sex divorce. Officials in the nation's capital, who OK'd same-sex marriage in 2009, want to clarify D.C. law to deal with same-sex divorce.

As the Washington Blade reported last month, D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) quietly introduced his bill on the matter last fall:

Supporters say the bill, the Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Amendment Act of 2011, is needed because states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage have no legal mechanism to issue a divorce to gay or lesbian couples who wish to dissolve their D.C. marriage through a divorce.

Under the city’s existing marriage law, which allows same-sex couples to marry, one or both parties to a same-sex marriage performed in D.C. would have to become a city resident for six months before the city would grant the couple a divorce.

As the Examiner reported this week, it's unclear just how many same-sex couples have sought a divorce in D.C. since the courts do not track marriage licenses and divorce filings by sexual orientation.

A committee mark-up of Mendelson's legislation was held earlier this week and the bill was forwarded to the full D.C. Council for consideration. With seven other council co-sponsors, its passage is anticipated.