Todd Elia-Warnken v. Richard Elia
July 26, 2012 – Victory! The MA Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor our our client, Richard Elia, stating that “a Vermont civil union must be dissolved prior to either party entering into a marriage with a third person in the Commonwealth.” The ruling further states that “We shall recognize a Vermont Civil Union as equivalent to marriage in the Commonwealth under principles of comity.”
GLAD argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) April 5, 2012 in a case regarding the validity of a marriage entered by a party with an undissolved civil union to another person.
When our client, Richard Elia, married Todd Elia-Warnken in 2005, Mr. Elia-Warnken already had a legal spousal relationship with another man – a civil union from Vermont – that had never been dissolved. When Mr. Elia discovered this in the middle of their pending divorce, he sought to have the divorce action dismissed on the grounds that he and Mr. Elia-Warnken had never been legally married.
The Probate and Family Court granted the motion to dismiss, and the case is now awaiting argument at the SJC, which took the case on direct appellate review rather than allowing the case to proceed through the Appeals Court. GLAD will continue to argue that because Mr. Elia-Warnken already had a legal spouse, the parties’ marriage violated Massachusetts law prohibiting multiple marriages and was thus void from its inception.