One of First Gay Couples to Get Married in New York Set to Be First to Get Divorced
By Leon Watson
June 26, 2012
They were at the forefront of an historic change in New York’s marriage law. But a year on from being one of the city’s first gay couples to tie the knot, Katie Marks and Dese’Rae Stage have split. The pair, both 28, had been together since 2008 and were planning to have their big day in Boston this year.
Yet when New York, the sixth state to allow gay marriages, passed the Marriage Equality Act on June 24 last year they decided to bring it forward in their home city. ‘It was kind of one of those things, to be a part of history,’ Dese’Rae told The Atlantic Wire.
On July 30, the first Saturday that gay marriages could be performed in New York City, Katie and Dese’Rae joined 23 other couples at the Pop Up Chapel, a one-day wedding event in Central Park, as part of New York City’s first wave of legally married gay couples.
Katie and Dese’Rae had gone to middle school and high school together, but went their separate ways before reconnecting on MySpace in 2008.
They picked up their marriage licences at the City Clerk’s Office in downtown Manhattan on the day gay marriage became legal. The on the Saturday, Katie wore a magenta dress and Dese’Rae skinny jeans and pink Chuck Taylors. After the wedding, Des wrote on her blog, in a post titled ‘We Did It!’.
By January, things had started to go wrong. Dese’Rae and Katie have since separated and moved out of their Washington Heights apartment. They’re now one of the first married gay couples – if not the very first – in New York to divorce.
‘I feel like I’m the president of the loneliest club in the world,’ Dese’Rae said. ‘I was the first gay person in my group of friends to marry, and now I’m the only gay divorcée I know.’
Bex Schwartz, one of the Pop Up Chapel’s organisers, said: ‘Of course, the news made us sad, but as ministers who perform weddings, marriage equality means marriage is marriage. Unfortunately, the other side is divorce is divorce.’
Figures quoted in The Atlantic Wire show, nearly half of U.S. marriages – both same sex and different sex – end in divorce.
Research by the Williams Institute’s Lee Badgett and Jody Herman from November 2011 found: ‘In the U.S., over 140,000 same-sex couples have formalised their relationship under state law and nearly 50,000 have married.
‘The data shows that same-sex couples marry at much higher rates than they enter civil unions or other legal statuses… When a state allows marriage for same-sex couples, over 60 per cent of those who marry come from other states.’
Their research found that on average the annual divorce rate for same-sex couples is similar to, though slightly lower than, the rate for different-sex couples. About 1.1 per cent of same-sex couples in legal unions end their relationship, they found, while about 2 per cent of married different-sex couples divorce.
Raoul Felder, a New York divorce lawyer who has handled numerous high-profile breakups including Rudy Giuliani’s split from his wife of 18 years, said: ‘We have 34 [gay divorce] cases right now in the office, compared to 150 [heterosexual] divorce cases.’
The six states that allow same-sex marriage are Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia.