In June, when the Supreme Court declared gay marriage constitutional, dozens of Houstonians were ready and waiting to head to the courthouse. Ryan Cotter was one of them, but he wasn’t anxious to get married. Just the opposite, actually.
Cotter met Daniel Monsalve when both were in college, and the two were longtime friends before they started dating. After a year together, the couple made their relationship official in New York in 2013, tying the knot in a lavish ceremony at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan.
“I wanted to tell my kids that I went to New York and got married when the entire US didn’t even recognize same-sex marriage,” said Cotter.
Like most, he went into the union thinking it would last a lifetime. But it wasn’t to be. By January of this year, the couple had separated, at which point they learned that getting a same-sex divorce in Texas would be more complicated than either imagined. People can get married everywhere, it seems, but they have to file for divorce in the state and county where they reside. When Susan Myers, Cotter’s attorney, submitted the divorce petition, the court explained that filing it could be considered fraud.
“It was a terrifying feeling,” said Cotter. “Daniel is an amazing guy, everything was very amicable, but we didn’t want to be legally married anymore, so we were sort of stuck.”
Rather than upend their lives and establish residency in a state that recognized their marriage (and desired lack thereof), Cotter and Monsalve decided to wait for the Supreme Court decision. Cotter was on the phone with Myers as soon as it was announced, hoping for the earliest available court hearing.
The following week, Cotter and Myers headed to court, where the judge banged the gavel and declared that divorce papers would be signed by the end of the next day. Cotter, half of the first same-sex couple to get a divorce in Harris County, breathed a sigh of relief.
“A divorce is never a happy thing or something to celebrate, but what’s amazing is that I was the first gay man in Harris County to get a divorce just like every other person,” said Cotter. “It was bittersweet, it’s the end of the relationship, but I know there’s another chapter.”