Court Rules Lesbian Couple Married in Massachusetts Can't Get Divorced in Rhode Island

A lesbian couple that married in Massachusetts cannot get divorced in their home state of Rhode Island, the state's highest court ruled Friday.

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 a union between a man and a woman.

"The role of the judicial branch is not to make policy, but simply to determine the legislative intent," the court wrote.

Cassandra Ormiston and Margaret Chambers wed in Massachusetts in 2004 after that state became the first 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 Massachusetts.

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.