On a Dry, Dusty Day
I drove seven miles over dusty, rutted dirt roads lined by broken wire fences, tumble weed and yellowing prairie grass to reach a two-story red brick box, which was the Rosebud Indian Hospital. My first paying position as a doctor after finishing medical school and an internship was as a United States Public Health Service officer on the Rosebud, South Dakota Indian Reservation. This Rosebud had no relationship to the grandeur and drama of Orson Wells’ Citizen Kane. This Rosebud, the home of the Oglala Sioux Rosebud Tribe, consisted of the hospital, a few houses scattered nearby and a barren dusty vista of treeless rolling hills covering an area half the size of Connecticut.
My father, on his one visit to Rosebud, summarized the scene well. His comment was, “When we gave this to the Indians, we sure didn’t give them much, did we?” He was right. In recent years some tribes have become wealthy through casinos and gambling. But that hasn’t been the fate of residents of the Rosebud and their neighbors on Pine Ridge and other Dakota reservations. There poverty, alcoholism, and suicide are endemic.
On a hot dry June afternoon I walked from the hospital along the dirt road that headed to the general store and the tiny white clapboard church forming “the center of town.” I always remained alert expecting to see John Wayne ride in alongside the stage coach. What I saw instead was a plume of dust in the distance signifying a car headed my way. As it approached, I stood by the side of the road to let it pass, but instead it slowed and stopped. The driver rolled down the dirty window of his dust covered Buick and looking rather bedraggled asked, “Can you tell me how to get to Rosebud?”
With a measure of disbelief, I looked at him and smiling said, “Well sir, this is Rosebud.”
He took a long hard look at the barren hillsides, the sporadic distribution of decrepit tar paper shacks and tents that housed some local Indians, and with the dust settling in his wake he shook his head, saying, “Well then, can you tell me how to get out of Rosebud?”
“Sure. Just go straight ahead on this dirt road and in seven or eight miles you’ll reach the highway. Mission, South Dakota will be about fifteen minutes to the right and Rapid City about three hours or so to the left.”
A weary woebegone smile accompanied his “thanks.” Then he drove on.
That incident came to mind recently while reading an article by Erica Goode in the New York Times. She writes about the difficulty married same-sex couples may have in obtaining a divorce if the state they reside in does not recognize same sex marriage.
Statistics to date indicate the divorce rate for married same-sex couples is slightly lower than for straight couples but there is every reason to expect the rates will even out as more same-sex couples marry. Newlyweds everywhere, in the frenzy and excitement of marriage, give little thought to divorce—little thought on how to get out of Rosebud.
Adam Cardinal, a Fort Lauderdale resident cited by the Times, is an example. Married in New Hampshire four or five years ago, Cardinal and his husband, now separated, live in Florida. Since Florida doesn’t recognize the validity of their same-sex New Hampshire marriage, the Florida court cannot grant him a divorce. Mr. Cardinal cannot remarry because to do so would make him a bigamist in states like New York and Massachusetts that do recognize his marriage.
Most states will marry a couple after a brief interval of a day or so between obtaining a license and the ceremony. For divorce, however, states frequently require an in-state residency of six months or more after filing. For out-of-staters “Returning to the state where the wedding was performed is rarely practical,” Ms Goode notes. Six states, including Delaware and Vermont, allow non-resident same-sex couples who married in the state to divorce under some circumstances. According to Ms Goode, “Even when same-sex couples divorce in states that recognize their marriages, the process is often more complex than for heterosexual couples.”
Legal experts advise that married couples living in states where they can divorce should look at estate planning documents and prenuptial agreements. Federal regulations governing the division of assets may now apply since the Supreme Court DOMA ruling. Many same sex couples getting married have lived together for years. But in most states assets are considered divisible only if they were acquired after marriage.
Sounds as if same-sex marriage, like a trip to Rosebud, requires not only a way in, but a map to get out.
John Siegfried, a former Rehoboth resident, lives in Ft. Lauderdale. Email John Siegfried