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Lesbian couple not allowed to divorce in their home state of Rhode Island

A lesbian couple who married in Massachusetts is not allowed to get divorce in their home state of Rhode Island.

The court, in a 3-2 decision, said the state's family court lacks the authority to grant the divorce of a same-sex couple because Rhode Island lawmakers have not defined marriage as anything other than between a man and a woman.

Cassandra Ormiston and Margaret Chambers wed in Massachusetts in 2004 after that state became the only to legalize same-sex marriages. The couple filed for divorce last year in Rhode Island, where they both live.

Lawyers for the women did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment.

A Massachusetts judge last year decided same-sex couples from Rhode Island could marry there because nothing in Rhode Island law specifically bans gay marriage. But the courts and the legislature in Rhode Island have not taken any action to recognize same-sex marriages performed in the neighboring state.

Lawyers for the women had argued before the Supreme Court that they should consider only whether Rhode Island could recognize a valid marriage from another state for the sole purpose of granting a divorce petition.

But opponents of same-sex marriage told the court that granting the divorce would create a slippery slope toward allowing gay couples to wed.

Connecticut, Vermont, California, New Jersey, Maine and Washington have laws allowing either civil unions or domestic partnerships, with New Hampshire and Oregon set to join in January. Hawaii extends certain spousal rights to same-sex couples and heterosexual pairs who live together.