The Other McCain

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In Georgia Divorce Case, Lesbian Claims Her Same-Sex Marriage Wasn’t Real

Posted on | October 10, 2019 | 1 Comment

Lee Kyser (left) and Lawrie Demorest (right) with Nancy Pelosi in 2007.

A major LGBT activist who now faces a divorce filing from her longtime lesbian partner is claiming their marriage was never legally valid:

Atlanta attorney Lawrie Demorest has devoted tremendous energy and earnings to the fight for LGBTQ equality, but in response to an atypical divorce action brought by her lesbian partner, the former co-chair of the board of directors for the Human Rights Campaign has tried to legally nullify a relationship she once said should be treated the same as a marriage.
In some ways, Demorest is arguing against her younger self in a case that involves an expired marriage statute, the reach of Obergerfell v. Hodges and whether a national leader on LGBTQ rights abandoned the spirit of marriage equality in her personal life.

In 1998, hundreds attended Demorest’s “wedding” ceremony with her partner Lee Kyser at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and Kyser subsequently quit her job to care for the twin infants the lesbian couple adopted. In 2004, they sued Atlanta’s prestigious Druid Hills Golf Club for discrimination, claiming they were not being treated equally to heterosexual couples, but now Demorest argues they never were:

Yet, in an affidavit Demorest filed as part of her attempt to dismiss a Complaint for Divorce filed by Kyser in DeKalb County, Georgia, Demorest said she didn’t have “any inkling” that Kyser would one day pretend their relationship had been a marriage.
“I just can’t get over her blindness,” Kyser told LGBTQ Nation. “How did she get to [a place] where she really talked herself into believing that she can advocate for equality and have this tremendous reputation, and then turn around and try to exit our relationship in this way, which is totally contradictory to fairness and equity. To have built up such a reputation professionally and politically, and to then turn and handle her own relationship and family like this just tears it down.” . . .
In her complaint, Kyser evoked both the Obergefell ruling and common law marriage, which was abolished in Georgia in 1997. Her attorneys have argued these combined principles retroactively date the start of Kyser and Demorest’s marriage to July 1996, when Kyser moved into Demorest’s home. . . .
In a motion to outright dismiss Kyser’s standing to file a divorce, Demorest said the couple began cohabitating because Kyser wanted to rent out her home while the summer Olympics were in Atlanta.
“When I agreed for Lee to move in with me in 1996, I never considered whether this would impose any long term legal obligations on me … because they were not available to us as a same-sex couple,” Demorest said in a sworn affidavit. “I never knowingly took on such legal responsibilities and never expected any legal implications to arise from our dating relationship or our agreement to live together.”
However, over the next two decades, Demorest and Kyser co-mingled their finances, brought property together, agreed that Kyser would scale back her psycholgical practice in order to raise the infant twins the couple adopted, and fought on behalf of same-sex couples, including jointly giving more than $175,000 to HRC.
When Demorest told Kyser she was leaving the relationship in December 2017, Kyser said her ex-partner proposed they each walk away with what was titled in their own names, despite having agreed decades earlier that Demorest would be the family’s breadwinner. Kyser’s only source of income at the time was social security, and she accused Demorest of setting her up for “an undignified retirement.”

Well, isn’t this an ugly little sequel to “marriage equality”? And I wonder how their adopted twins are dealing with this trauma . . .



 

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