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For Nation's First Civil Union, an Uncivil Split

December 16, 2005|From Associated Press

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — A lesbian couple who entered into the nation's first same-sex civil union are splitting up amid allegations of violent behavior.

Carolyn Conrad, 35, asked a court in October to end her relationship with 46-year-old Kathleen Peterson. Conrad also obtained a restraining order Wednesday against her partner, saying Peterson punched a hole in the wall during an argument and threatened to harm a friend.

"All I want to say is that the civil union was a big source of pride for me, and now it's not," Peterson said.

The two had been together for five years when they were legally joined minutes after Vermont's civil union law took effect July 1, 2000. Two years ago, the couple were offering relationship advice on a gay rights website.

By the end of 2004, 7,549 same-sex couples had entered civil unions in Vermont, the first state to offer gay couples nearly all the rights and privileges of marriage. There have been 78 dissolutions.

Bari Shamas, a member of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, an advocacy group, said all relationships were prone to the same difficulties.

"There's no proof that our relationships are any better than heterosexual relationships," Shamas said.

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