Lesbian Relationship Not Adultery, Lawyer Argues

In a bizarre semantic twist, divorce attorney Rosalie Davies is using Pennsylvania’s law on adultery to argue why her lesbian client should get alimony from her ex-husband.

At issue is whether or not lesbian sex, occurring outside of heterosexual marriage, is considered adultery. If it is adulterous, lesbians can be denied alimony under the state’s no-fault divorce laws. Because dictionaries usually define adultery as sexual intercourse, and sexual intercourse is always defined as penetration by a penis, Davies argues adultery is a legal impossibility between lesbians. Pennsylvania’s state law does not require penetration under its definition of adultery, but it does not define the term either. In Davies’ court brief, she argues that “Cunnilingus does not involve penetration, and surely manual penetration is not intended or all Pennsylvania gynecologists would function in a setting of multiple and ongoing adulterous liasions!”

Davies admits that, if the case is heard by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, which the opposing lawyer predicts it will, lesbian sex might end up being defined as “less than” heterosexual sex. Still, she contends that since gays and lesbians cannot be legally married, they should not be subject to the same marriage and divorce laws as heterosexuals.

Davies’ client has three children, and lives with a woman who also has three children of her own. She accepted a reduced child-support payment in the divorce agreement with the understanding that it would be supplemented by alimony. She says that she is now under considerable financial strain because of her ex-husband’s refusal to pay alimony.


PlanetOut - October 17, 1997

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