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December 31: Civil Union and Civil Divorce

December 31, 2013
5726954639_ht47civilUnion_xlargeGlen Rosengarten, the founder of Food Emporium Supermarkets, entered into a civil union in Vermont with Peter Downes on this date in 2000 — and then sought to dissolve the union in his home state of Connecticut seven months later. In that case, Rosengarten v. Downes, the state appellate court refused to recognize the civil union or grant the divorce, stating that “the Vermont legislature cannnot legislate for the people of Connecticut.” When Rosengarten died of lymphoma at 54 (he had sought to dissolve his civil union to protect his three daughters’ inheritance), the case was mooted and stopped advancing through the system. Three years later, Connecticut passed its own civil union law. According to Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a same-sex-marriage advocacy group in New York, only one couple has successfully dissolved a Vermont civil union outside the state, in West Virginia. “There are people who won’t let us get into committed relationships, and they won’t let us get out of them, either,” says Wolfson. “In the first three years the law was in effect [the first civil union law in the U.S.], 5,671 same-sex couples joined in civil union. Of these, only 840 were from Vermont, with 4,831 coming from elsewhere. Lesbian and gay couples came to Vermont from 48 other states and from over a dozen other countries for their civil union. The only state not then represented was North Dakota.” —Gregory A. Johnson, GLBTQ Encyclopedia