"Poster Couple" for California Same-Sex Marriage Files for Divorce

February 22, 2012
By Thomas M. Huguenor on February 22, 2012 3:00 PM |

The couple often referred to as the "poster couple" for same-sex marriage in California has filed for divorce. Robin Tyler filed for divorce from Diane Olson on January 25 in Los Angeles, almost four years since their wedding. This was shortly before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling striking down Proposition 8, the ballot initiative passed by California voters in 2008 that banned gay marriage.

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Tyler and Olson had been a couple for eighteen years when they were married on June 16, 2008, the same day that the California Supreme Court's ruling took effect, holding that equal protection required state recognition of same-sex marriages. For seven years prior to that, they had made an annual trip to the Beverly Hills Courthouse to apply for a marriage license. They were turned away every time.

The couple had been plaintiffs in the litigation that overturned Proposition 22, the 2000 ballot initiative that amended the state's Family Code to define marriage specifically as the union of a man and woman. A series of lawsuits filed in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2004 challenged the constitutionality of Proposition 22. The case went to the California Supreme Court, which struck down all state statutes restricting marriage to opposite sex couples. The Court issued a 4-3 ruling in May 2008 that took effect the day Tyler and Olson wed.

Within months of Tyler's and Olson's wedding, another ballot initiative, Proposition 8, was passed by voters. It amended the state constitution to replace the now-unenforceable Family Code section created by Proposition 22. Proposition 8 superseded the Supreme Court's ruling as well. It did not invalidate existing marriages, so Tyler and Olson remained married, but it prevented any more couples from marrying.

In May 2009, fourteen gay couples filed a lawsuit, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, challenging Proposition 8's validity. After a trial, a U.S. District Judge in San Francisco ruled in August 2010 that Proposition 8 violated both the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Ninth Circuit approved a stay of the order while an appeal was pending, meaning that California continued not to recognize same-sex marriages after the ruling. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional on February 7, 2012. The panel wrote the opinion to carefully state that the ruling only applies to California, but it will likely have an impact in other states.

Numerous commentators have quipped that it only seems fair for couples like Tyler and Olson, having fought so long for the right to marry, to avail themselves of the divorce process as well. Marriages of all sorts, same-sex marriages, can end in divorce. Tyler stresses in interviews that her experience is no different from that of opposite-sex couples. After nearly four years of legally-recognized marriage, they will now have to go through all the same procedures as any other couple in California.

For more than 35 years, San Diego certified divorce lawyer Thomas Huguenor has represented people finding their way through the California divorce process. For a free and confidential consultation, contact him today online or at (858) 458-9500.

More Blog Posts:

New California Laws for 2012 Include "Gay Divorce Bill," San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, January 5, 2012

Supreme Court Denies Review of Louisiana Adoption Decision for Same-Sex Couple, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, October 13, 2011

San Diego Divorce Analysis: How to Navigate the Family Court System, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, August 24, 2011