Nation's First Same-Sex Civil Union Ends

A lesbian couple who entered into the nation's first same-sex civil union officially split up Wednesday.

Carolyn Conrad and Kathleen Peterson, both of Brattleboro, had entered a civil union shortly after midnight on July 1, 2000, the day Vermont's first-in-the-nation law went into effect.

Conrad, 35, filed to end the union in October and later obtained a restraining order against her partner, saying Peterson punched a hole in the wall during an argument and threatened to harm a friend.

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A judge granted the request for a dissolution Wednesday.

"It's a heartbreaking situation for any couple," Conrad told the Brattleboro Reformer on Wednesday.

The couple had been in a relationship for five years before Vermont began offering same-sex couples the rights and benefits of marriage.

Beth Robinson, chairwoman of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, said the union's end shows that the state's civil union law is working.

"One of the goals was to create a mechanism to protect people in a relationship and create a mechanism to help people dissolve relationships," she said. "Same-sex relationships are no different than heterosexual relationships. Sometimes they last, sometimes they don't."

More than 7,500 civil unions have been formed in Vermont since the end of 2004 and 78 have been dissolved.