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Lesbian couple married in Mass. seeks annulment in Mo.

Tuesday Mar 18, 2008
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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. - A lesbian married in Massachusetts has filed for an annulment from her partner in Missouri, a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Charisse Y. Sparks went to the 5th Circuit Judicial Court in October asking for an annulment to her marriage with Janet Y. Peters-Mauceri-Sparks. The two women were married in Boston three years ago, less than a year after Massachusetts became the first - and only - state to legalized same-sex unions.

Judge Daniel Kellogg said he has taken the matter into consideration and is treating it as an annulment, not a divorce. He has scheduled a hearing for April 2.

The case could have future ramifications, possibly setting a precedent for same-sex cases in Missouri. The state overwhelmingly voted four years ago to limit marriage to unions between one man and one woman.

It’s not the first time a gay couple has tried to dissolve a marriage performed in another state.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled in December that a lesbian couple married in nearby Massachusetts could not get a divorce in their home state.

The Rhode Island court said the state’s family court does not have the authority to grant the divorce of same-sex couples because Rhode Island lawmakers have not defined marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman.

Rhode Island House majority leader Gordon Fox said last month he would introduce legislation allowing married gay couples to get divorced in the state.

At least nine states have approved spousal rights of some form for gay couples.

Sparks, a doctor for Heartland Health in St. Joseph, married Peters-Mauceri-Sparks in Boston in 2005. They moved to Missouri not long after the ceremony. Sparks has asked for an annulment, saying in a court petition that she does not recognize the marriage.

Her attorney, William Bird, asked in court documents that the marriage be declared invalid because Missouri does not recognize same-sex marriages.

Sparks has referred all media requests to Bird. A receptionist at his law firm said he is not commenting on the case.

Kay Madden, attorney for Peters-Mauceri-Sparks, countered that the union is legal because Missouri courts have long held that out-of-state marriages should be respected in Missouri as long as the marriage was legal in the state it was performed.

She did not return a call seeking comment.

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