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It’s not adultery if your straight spouse has gay sex

A woman finds her husband in bed with another man
Photo: Shutterstock

A parliamentary petition in the U.K. is calling for the government to recognize same-sex affairs just as much as opposite-sex affairs when it comes to adultery.

At issue is the U.K.’s Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which only allows for married couples to divorce for five reasons, one of which is adultery, defined as sexual intercourse “between a man and a woman.”

Related: Virginia Supreme Court recognizes gay couples in divorce law

Effectively, it’s not cheating under U.K. law if it’s gay sex.

The petition calls for the law to be updated “to reflect LGBT marriages and lifestyles, so that conduct between the respondent and a person of the same sex may constitute adultery.”

“Although there have been positive changes in recent years in terms of legalizing same-sex marriage and increasing rights for LGBTQ+ people, we’re still not at the end of achieving LGBTQ+ equality,” Isabella Potesta, who started the petition, told Pink News.

“The fact that the law specifically excludes same-sex conduct in matters of adultery is archaic and needs changing to represent the diversity of LGBTQ+ experiences and relationships.”

In 2015, the BBC reported on a woman whose husband cheated on her with ten different men. She thought she could file for divorce on the grounds of adultery, but a lawyer told her that she couldn’t because her husband’s sexual partners were men.

This didn’t have material consequences, though; she was able to obtain a divorce on the grounds of her husband’s “unreasonable behavior,” which usually means addiction or abuse but can include any behavior that a judge believes a person cannot be expected to live with. And the reason for the divorce did not affect the financial settlement.

But the woman said it was important to her that she couldn’t get a divorce on the grounds of adultery because she cares “hugely about the betrayal” and wanted “to know that somebody somewhere has recognized that.”

If the petition gets 100,000 signatures, Parliament will consider it for debate. It currently has 275.

No-fault divorce is available in all 50 states and D.C. in the U.S., which means that, for Americans, simply not wanting to be married anymore is reason enough to be legally allowed to divorce.

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