Having same-sex unions recognized as valid and legal by the federal government was a huge civil rights achievement for countless people across the country. Still, marriage equality continues to be debated by individual states, consequently prompting another dispute over the federal government’s role in legislating the issue. What many people may not consider, however, is that same-sex divorce is a legal process that makes similar bounds in promoting equal rights for all Virginia residents.

According to the New York Magazine, divorce rates among members of the GLBT community are on the rise. It was estimated that approximately 1 percent of legal same-sex marriages were ending every year, and that number was expected to increase. The boom in same-sex divorces that family law experts anticipate is linked to several causes, including that same-sex couples are getting married in increasing numbers and that many couples did not have the opportunity to legally divorce until now.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in the state of Virginia last year and the Defense of Marriage Act was largely invalidated by the federal government in 2013. However, there are a number of states who have yet to legalize same-sex unions. Such discrepancies in state and federal legislation have resulted in serious legal issues for couples seeking marriage and divorce out of state. For instance, a same-sex couple who marries in Virginia may not be able to legally divorce in the state of Georgia. Even so, Virginia’s legalization of same-sex marriage has given many couples the right to end their relationships under their own terms.

The Daily Press reported on the first same-sex divorce to be filed in the state. The couple at the heart of the case had moved to Virginia after marrying in Washington D.C., and had been denied the right to divorce prior to that moment. Discussing the plaintiff’s divorce filing, a representative for the woman noted that the right to dissolve a same-sex union was a civil rights achievement for members of the GLBT community.