S.C. grants couple first same-sex divorce

Less than a month after South Carolina began recognizing gay marriages, the state on Friday approved its first same-sex divorce.

Maria Hamar and her now ex-wife, who requested that she not be identified, were married in New York in the fall of 2011, according to court documents that were filed Oct. 31 in Charleston County.

The couple separated two years later, and ultimately dissolved their marriage this week before Family Court Judge Jerry Vinson.

Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon's law firm represented Hamar's partner for the proceedings while the debate over the legality of same-sex marriage has raged in the state.

Condon's own marriage to Nichols Bleckley made history Nov. 19 when they were granted the state's first same-sex marriage license. Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon, a distant cousin to Condon, initially agreed to approve her request to wed in October after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reconsider a series of appellate court decisions legalizing same-sex marriages.

State Attorney General Alan Wilson fought unsuccessfully to stop the marriages, and is currently waiting to hear about whether a case in another state would impact South Carolina's decision to allow the marriages.

The delay placed licenses for Condon and 29 other couples on hold for more than a month. Condon said the state's indecision also placed Hamar and her partner in a "legal limbo" while they struggled to sort out their divorce.

By law, Condon said, Hamar and her partner couldn't seek a divorce in New York because they weren't residents of that state. In order to end their marriage, she said, they first had to wait for South Carolina to recognize their union.

The couple filed for divorce while the legality of gay marriages in South Carolina was still under debate.

Condon said the divorce was the first in the state to involve a same-sex couple as far as she was aware. She said she recognized it as a milestone because of what it represented.

"Divorce is something that we were prepared to address given the concerns of the gay community as well as the straight community. It's important that everyone has the same access to the court system," Condon said. "Do I want to celebrate divorces? No, but it's a reality. This is a marriage with all the full rights and responsibilities. And not every marriage works."

In an interview, Hamar said she plans to move to Atlanta for a fresh start. Hamar didn't contest the divorce, but she said she didn't want it either.

"I didn't want to go down in history," Hamar said. "I didn't want a divorce. It's terrible to be the first one."

Hamar said she felt as though gay couples were rushing to get married simply because they could, without thinking of the long term. With marriage comes a potential for heartbreak, she said, and ending that union through the court system.

"Your issues aren't going to get better because you're married," Hamar said.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.