A lesbian woman is now officially married to her longtime partner, who died months ago.
Utah Judge Patrick Corum declared 74-year-old Bonnie Foerster legally wed to her “soulmate” and common law partner Beverly Grossaint, who died in May at the age of 82, just a few weeks after the couple celebrated their five-decade anniversary together.
Foerster was crying tears of joy following the rare ruling on August 21. “I’m numb from happiness. I’m married,” she said, quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’m a married woman. I’ve waited 50 years,” she added.
The couple met in New York in 1968, after Foerster left her abusive husband. “I met her with two black eyes and broken ribs and so on and so forth, had sunglasses on,” she told local publication News4Utah ahead of the ruling.
“She told me to take the damn sunglasses off and looked into my eyes and said she could see my soul.
“I fell in love. She was my soulmate. When she met me we were both lost and we became Bonnie and Bev…Bev and Bonnie for 50 years.”
In the span of the following half-century, Foerster and her partner stayed by each other’s side for good or ill, in happiness or sadness.
In court, Foerster recalled marching with her partner, a veteran of the Women’s Army Corps, in the first gay pride parade in New York City in 1970.
“We had people throw garbage at us,” Foerster recalled, quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune. “We went home, took showers and got clean. Those people still have garbage in their hands.”
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The couple moved to Utah in 1979 to care for Grossaint’s sick mother. The pair also looked after each other’s health—Grossaint was Foerster’s caretaker as she battled breast and cervical cancer, as well as undergoing 29 back surgeries and suffering from a macular degeneration that left her legally blind.
Foerster was also diagnosed with a rare bone infection called osteomyelitis, which caused her two have both legs amputated in April 2016.
By that point, Grossaint had developed health problems of her own—lung disease emphysema and chronic heart failure—and Foerster was her main caretaker for the three years prior to her death, ultimately caused by pneumonia.
The idea of a post-mortem marriage recognition came from Roger Hoole, the couple’s attorney. “I knew that in Utah you can marry somebody within a year of after the marriage ends even though it ended in the death of one of the partners,” he told News4Utah.
Foerster is now planning a party to celebrate the wedding and the couple’s anniversary on September 15, according to the local news outlet. The marriage date has however yet to be decided.
Hoole had petitioned for the date to be July 26, 2015—when the Supreme Court ruled marriage equality law of the land, but Judge Corum argued that they could be considered married since December 20, 2013—when Utah legalised same-sex marriage—or even 1968, when the couple began living together, although this would entail a more complex legal process.
According to the judge, this was the Utah’s second posthumous same-sex marriage in Utah, following the case of a woman who married her partner, who died in a car crash.
A similar case in France made worldwide headlines in 2009, when a woman became the legal wife—and widow—of her fiancée, who had proposed to her two days before he was killed in a road accident.
In China, the dead can also marry the dead in so-called ghost marriages, a 3,000-year-old tradition that survives to this day.