The XX Factor

When Your Lesbian Wife Is the Primary Breadwinner

Tammy Lynn Michaels, the actress who is going through a messy split with wife Melissa Etheridge, claims that the rockstar left her with just $4 to care for the couple’s children. TMZ describes Michaels as “destitute ,” and they report that she’s seeking full spousal support, “something she can’t get if she is not ‘married,’ ” TMZ points out. Michaels has not acted since she gave birth to twins via an anonymous sperm donor in 2006, and the dissolution of her union allegedly leaves her in the same unfortunate financial situation that women found themselves before state alimony laws were passed in the ’ 60s and ‘70s that favored nonworking spouses .

The dynamic when one partner is the breadwinner is explored in The Kids Are All Right , which is out today. In the Onion AV Club review of that film , which is about a long-married lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), Keith Phipps writes, “Bening plays a doctor and the family’s primary breadwinner, a flinty, demanding woman who loses her ability to censor herself after two glasses of wine … [she] neglects Moore, who’s put her professional ambition on hold for decades, though her passiveness has limits.” This is also a downright old-fashioned partnership. As Slate ‘s Dana Stevens says of the movie , it underscores the notion that gay marriages are just like hetero marriages-for good or for ill.

Photograph of Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.