Utah judge rules lesbian couple are legally married months after one of them died

This is not the first time Utah has recognised posthumous marriage

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Thursday 30 August 2018 18:42 BST
Picture: (George Frey/Getty Images)

A woman and her now-deceased partner were legally married after being together for 50 years, a Utah judge has ruled.

Judge Patrick Corum declared Bonnie Foerster and Beverly Grossaint, who died in May 2018 at the age of 82, were a couple in the eyes of the state despite not having had a registered marriage.

Outside of the courthouse, Ms Foerster said she was “numb from happiness. I’m married. I’m a married woman. I’ve waited 50 years.”

Gay marriage became legal in the state in December 2013, but persistent health problems for both of them prevented them from getting a marriage license though they had held a commitment ceremony.

The last few years, the pair lived in separate facilities due to the medical care both needed, but Ms Foerster was by her wife’s side at the end.

The idea to have their partnership recognised came about weeks after Ms Grossaint’s death.

A longtime friend and the couple’s lawyer, Richard Hoole, suggested to Ms Foerster it was still possible to ‘get married’ - instead of a ceremony, a judge could declare they were legal spouses.

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Utah does not recognise common law marriage for any couple, but it is possible to ask a court to recognise the relationship. Ms Foerster and Ms Grossaint’s case is not the first time posthumous marriage has been declared legal.

Mr Hoole said his friends met all the requirements to be legal spouses: they had lived together for decades, they treated each other as spouses, and presented themselves to others as if they were married.

Ms Foerster, who suffers from a rare bone disease which required both her legs to be amputated and is blind due to macular degeneration, made her case to the judge.

She recalled how she met Ms Grossaint in New York City in 1968, shortly after leaving an abusive husband.

The pair instantly fell in love and marched in the city’s first gay pride parade together when people threw garbage at them.

They moved to Utah in 1979 to care for Ms Grossaint’s mother and stayed through battles of breast cancer, countless back surgeries, emphysema, and discrimination due to their sexuality.

“We were perfect together. I was born for her and she was born for me,” Ms Foerster said through tears to Mr Corum.

The judge came down from the bench after his ruling to hug Ms Foerster and confirm what had just happened.

Mr Hoole said Ms Foerster does not gain anything financially from the recognition, but will be able to inherit some of her wife’s belongings.

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