Kentucky Court Lets First Gay Married Couple File for Bankruptcy
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Kentucky Court Lets First Gay Married Couple File for Bankruptcy

August 10, 2012


A gay couple's journey to seek debt relief in bankruptcy court has involved plenty of legal challenges.

Sources say that Bob Joles and Joey Lester, both natives of Louisville, were married this May in Buffalo, New York, after being together for 16 years. The couple had to travel to New York to wed each other because Kentucky refuses to recognize same-sex unions.

In fact, in 2004, Kentucky amended its state constitution with a rule stating that “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage.”

Despite this law, a bankruptcy judge allowed Joles and Lester to jointly file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy because the Obama administration has decided to stop contesting joint filings by same-sex couples, according to sources.

Their joint filing is possible because bankruptcy technically takes place in a federal court, although each state has several different bankruptcy jurisdictions. And the judge’s recent approval of their reorganization plan allowed Joles and Lester to make bankruptcy history.

Of course, the couple is more grateful for the opportunity to recover their financial health. Sources say that the two men lost more than $200,000 when they purchased a restaurant at the start of the recession.

Despite their debt, however, both men are fully employed, and they expressed their gratitude that they will be able to continue working while they slowly repay their debts through the Chapter 13 plan.

The filing will also allow Joles to keep his car. If they’d been forced to file separately, Joles and Lester would have had to divide all the possessions they had accumulated during their 16 years together.

This, Joles said, would have been like “going through a divorce.” In Lester’s words, the couple has been together for nearly two decades, so “our money is our money and our debts are our debts.”

And the pair holds lofty hopes that Chapter 13 bankruptcy will help them recover from their failed investment.

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