Marriage Equality List

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There is much confusion about which states have what types of same-sex relationship laws.  We’ve compiled the list below to make it a bit easier to understand.  We will continue to update the list as the laws change.

If you have questions about the laws or the impact that they may have on you or your partner,  please contact us or post a comment below.  We really appreciate your feedback!

Allow marriage (listed by date of recognition, notwithstanding stays and/or appeals):Marriage Equality List

  1. New York (learn more)
  2. New Hampshire (learn more)
  3. Vermont (learn more here and here)
  4. Connecticut (learn more)
  5. Iowa (learn more)
  6. Massachusetts (learn more)
  7. Maryland (learn more)
  8. Maine (learn more)
  9. Washington (learn more)
  10. Washington DC (learn more)
  11. Delaware (learn more)
  12. Rhode Island (learn more)
  13. Minnesota (learn more)
  14. California (learn more)
  15. New Jersey (learn more)
  16. Hawaii (learn more and more)
  17. Illinois (learn more)
  18. Utah (learn more)
  19. New Mexico (learn more)
  20. Virginia (learn more)
  21. Texas  (enforcement stayed pending appeal - learn more and more)
  22. Oklahoma
  23. Michigan
  24. Arkansas  (as of May 16, 2014, there is a stay on same-sex marriages pending appeal)
  25. Idaho (enforcement stayed pending appeal – learn more)
  26. Pennsylvania (learn more)
  27. Oregon (learn more)
  28. Wisconsin
  29. Indiana
  30. Colorado (enforcement stayed pending appeal - learn more)
  31. Florida (learn more)
  32. Missouri
  33. Wyoming
  34. Nevada (learn more)
  35. North Carolina
  36. Kansas
  37. Alaska
  38. South Carolina
  39. Montana

Ruling that trial courts have the ability to hear divorce procedings terminating same-sex marriages created in other jurisdictions:

1. Kentucky (learn more)

2. Tennessee (enforcement stayed pending appeal -learn more and more)

3. Ohio (learn more)

 

 

Appeals Court Rejects Gay-Marriage Bans in West

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A federal appeals court Tuesday unanimously struck down gay marriage bans in the West, paving the way for same-sex nuptials in five more states.

To see the full story, please click on the link below:

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/nation/2014/10/08/Appeals-court-rejects-gay-marriage-bans-in-western-states/stories/201410080100

Justices Let Bans on Gay Unions Fall in 5 States

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The Supreme Court on Monday decided to let stand rulings that allow same-sex marriage in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana and Wisconsin.

See the full story by clicking on the link below:

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/nation/2014/10/06/Supreme-Court-denies-gay-marriage-appeals/stories/201410060176

 

If I was married out-of-state before Whitewood legalized same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, when is my official “date of change” of marital status, for purposes of determining whether my spouse is eligible under my employee benefit plan?

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by: Raul Mendoza (Summer Associate)

It may be the case that, before your spouse can qualify under your employee benefit plan, your employer requires you to notify it of a change in marital status within a certain number of days after the marriage.  It is always a good idea to review your employer’s policies to see if such requirement exists.

Those Pennsylvanians who had already legally wed their same-sex partners outside of Pennsylvania before Whitewood was decided may now be wondering when the change in marital status officially “occurred,” now that Pennsylvania recognizes same-sex marriage: is it the date that you got married?; is it May 20, 2104, the day the Whitewood opinion was issued and same-sex marriage became legal?; or is it another date – perhaps the date Governor Corbett stated he would not appeal the ruling?  The answer to this question is very important, since in some instances, it may determine whether you are too late in reporting your status change, rendering your spouse ineligible for your employee benefits.

Good news: May 20, 2014, is the effective “change of marital status” date for those same-sex couples married out of state before Whitewood was decided.  As such, Pennsylvania employers should not be able to take the position that couples married outside of Pennsylvania prior to the Whitewood decision needed to report the date of their out-of-state marriage and are now too late to collect spousal benefits.

 

How has the legalization of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania altered the adoption process for same-sex couples?

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by Gabrielle Lee (Summer Associate)

“Any individual may become an adopting parent.” This statement, cited from Pennsylvania’s Adoption Act now rings true for same-sex married individuals seeking to adopt their spouse’s children through what is called a “second-parent adoption.”  The Adoption Act provides that, unless the court determines otherwise, the consenting parent of an adoptee (the child to be adopted) must permanently relinquish all parental rights to his or her child unless the adopter is the consenting parent’s spouse.

Prior to Pennsylvania’s Whitewood decision, which struck down Pennsylvania’s law refusing to recognize same-sex marriages, this “spousal exception” did not apply to same-sex couples, whether lawfully married outside of Pennsylvania or not.  Although the Adoption Act did not explicitly prohibit same-sex couples from adopting, it imposed additional hurdles not faced by opposite-sex married couples. Same-sex couples wanting to adopt had two options: either the consenting parent could temporarily relinquish all rights to the child and subsequently file for a joint adoption with the spouse, or the consenting parent could attempt to persuade the court that the adopting partner should be permitted to adopt while the parent retained custody. For the latter option, the court had the discretion to determine if the adoption was in the best interest of the child.

Fortunately, now that Pennsylvania recognizes same-sex marriage, married same-sex spouses no longer encounter these time-consuming and emotionally-draining hurdles that existed before Whitewood.

 

What is the status of registered domestic partners in Pennsylvania post-Whitewood?

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by Matthew Dulac (Summer Associate)

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Pennsylvania, same-sex couples registered as “domestic partners” or “life partners” in cities like Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia may be wondering whether employers or State and Local officials will continue to provide domestic partner benefits.

Starting on June 30, 2015, Allegheny County will no longer provide benefits to county employees in registered domestic partnerships. (http://wesa.fm/post/allegheny-county-domestic-partners-given-more-time-losing-benefits.)  As County Executive Rich Fitzgerald stated: “Now that same sex marriage is legal in Pennsylvania, I believe that it is important to continue to keep our employees on equal footing and that means requiring proof of marriage for coverage of a spouse, partner and/or family members.” With respect to the benefits afforded to all other same-sex couples registered as domestic partners, the city of Pittsburgh is apparently reviewing  its policies in the wake of Whitewood and has yet to declare whether the benefits it extends will continue. In the employment context, each employer remains free to decide whether to continue to extend domestic partner benefits to its eligible employees,

At this point, it is not clear whether Harrisburg, which has provided same-sex domestic partner benefits since 2008, and Philadelphia, which has provided such benefits since 1996, will continue to do so.  But, with same-sex marriage now legal in the state of Pennsylvania it would not be surprising if these cities stop extending spousal benefits in the relatively-near future to same-sex couples that are not “married”.

 

What is the status of domestic partnership benefits on a federal level post-Windsor?

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by Matthew Dulac (Summer Associate)

Before the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) in United States  v. Windsor, the federal definition of “marriage” was limited to that between a man and a woman. For that reason, same-sex couples in registered domestic partnerships and civil unions could not receive spousal benefits under federal law.  This has not changed post-Windsor, since same-sex and opposite-sex married couples are now afforded (nearly all of) the same treatment under federal law.  That is, federal spousal benefits are only extended to “married” couples – whether same-sex or opposite-sex – and not to domestic partners.

In fact, several federal agencies have clarified that “marriage” means only couples who are actually married under the law, regardless of sexual orientation, and not those in registered domestic partnership or civil unions.  For example, in September 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stated in Revenue Ruling 2013-17  that, for tax purposes, the term  “marriage” includes marriage between individuals of the same sex but does not include registered domestic partnerships.

Similarly—and just two days after the IRS—the US Department of Labor (DOL) released its own statement in the DOL Guidance to Employee Benefit Plans 2013-04 that it would interpret “spouse” as any individual lawfully married under any state law, and “marriage” to include a same-sex marriage that is legally recognized as a marriage under any state law.  The DOL also stated, however, that the terms “spouse” and “marriage” do not include individuals in a relationship that is not denominated a “marriage” under state law, such as a domestic partnership.

In sum, even though same-sex marriages now are eligible for many of the same federal benefits as opposite-sex marriages, domestic partnerships remain unrecognized for the purpose of receiving federal spousal benefits.

If you die intestate (without a last will and testament), will your same-sex spouse be considered a “spouse” for purposes of inheritance?

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by Mercedes Bugallo (Summer Associate) 

Yes.  One of the effects of the Whitewood decision is that same-sex spouses are considered a “spouse” for purposes of Pennsylvania’s intestate succession process. A person domiciled in Pennsylvania who dies without a will is said to have died “intestate” and his or her estate is divided according to Pennsylvania’s intestate succession laws. The existence of surviving children or parents will affect the amount of the estate and other property to which the same-sex spouse is entitled.  If the deceased left no children or parents, then the surviving spouse inherits everything. Importantly, property inherited from a spouse is exempt from Pennsylvania’s estate tax.

For more detailed information, please refer to this chart, located on the Allegheny Register of Wills’ website: http://www.alleghenycounty.us/wo/probate/intestate.pdf

 

 

Does the recognition of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania have any effect on immigration visa petitions for Pennsylvania citizens?

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by Mercedes Bugallo (Summer Associate)

Immigration visas, unlike marriage recognitions, are regulated by the federal government, not the individual states.  This means that the Pennsylvania Whitewood decision, albeit groundbreaking on a state level, has no effect on a same-sex couple’s application for green cards or fiancé visas.

Fortunately, however, the federal government has been treating both same-sex and opposite-sex married couples alike for immigration purposes since shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court declared the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”)
unconstitutional in 2013, in the case of United States v. Windsor.  Before Windsor, a U.S. citizen could not sponsor his or her foreign spouse for a green card or fiancée visa. Now, bi-national same-sex couples are afforded the same consideration as opposite-sex couples for immigration purposes.  Indeed, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USIS), which is the organization in charge of the visa process for spouses of American citizens, USIS reviews immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.

Keep in mind that “the law of the place where the marriage was celebrated determines whether the marriage is legally valid for immigration purposes. . . . The domicile state’s laws and policies on same-sex marriages will not bear on whether USCIS will recognize a marriage as valid.” In other words, USCIS will consider visa petitions of same-sex couples who have a valid marriage license from a U.S. state or foreign country where same-sex marriage is legal, even if the couple lives in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage. But, it will not consider visa petitions for same-sex spouses whose marriage was performed in a country or state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, even if the couples lives in a state that does recognize same-sex marriages, because the marriage was not lawfully entered into.

 The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ FAQ section for same-sex marriage applications and benefits can be found at: http://www.uscis.gov/family/same-sex-marriages.

 

Are out-of-country same-sex marriages (e.g., Canada) now recognized in Pennsylvania?

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by  Mercedes Bugallo (Summer Associate)

Seventeen countries have legalized marriage for same-sex couples nationwide (Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, France, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, Britain, and Luxembourg).  Two others allow same-sex marriage on a regional basis (Mexico and the United States).

Same-sex couples who married abroad can rest assured that the state of Pennsylvania will automatically recognize their marriage. There is no formal process or forms to fill out for the marriage to be recognized in the state.

However, marriages from other countries are not automatically registered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This means that while Pennsylvania will recognize foreign marriages of same-sex couples, it will not maintain records of those marriages, because marriage records are maintained by the jurisdiction that granted the marriage license. Same-sex couples getting married abroad should, therefore, obtain certified copies of their marriage license from the country in which it took place. There are a various reasons why someone may need a copy of his or her marriage record. For example, proof of marriage may be required for name changes, to collect Social Security or pension benefits, for adoption purposes, and for some passport applications.

For more information, listen to Equality Pennsylvania’s “Questions and Answers about Marriage in PA”: http://www.equalitypa.org/questions-and-answers-about-marriage-in-pa/

 

Pennsylvania Anti-Discrimination Laws: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

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By Sydney Normil (Summer Associate)

Currently, federal and state (Pennsylvania) anti-discrimination laws protect against discrimination on the basis of sex (male vs. female), but not sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.  However, a number of Pennsylvania municipalities have enacted ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression.  The list of municipalities is always changing, and the protection offered by each municipality varies.  For example, one municipality may protect against transgender identity discrimination while another municipality may protect only against sexual orientation discrimination.  It is necessary to consult with the individual municipality to determine which protections are available.

Filing a Complaint

An aggrieved individual can file a “complaint” with its municipality for discriminatory acts performed against them in employment, housing or public accommodation matters occurring within the borough or city limits. A complaint is a form that requests general information of both the person filing and of the accused employer and a summary of the alleged discriminatory acts. Each municipality may maintain a different form and course of procedure for investigating such complaints. For example, the complaint form may need to be printed and mailed or hand delivered, or the complaint form may be submitted online. This list contains the names of the municipalities and their respective commissions, and hyperlinks to the municipalities’ websites, complaint forms or guides to filing a complaint, if available. (Last updated July 2014)

Municipalities:

Abington Township – Abington Township Human Relations Commission – The complaint form can be found here.

Allegheny CountyAllegheny County Human Relations Commission – The complaint form can be found here.

City of AllentownHuman Relations Commission of the City of Allentown – The complaint form can be found here.

City of Bethlehem – Bethlehem Human Relations Commission

Bristol BoroughBristol Borough Human Relations Commission

Bucks County- Bucks County Human Relations Council

Cheltenham TownshipCheltenham Township Human Relations Commission – The complaint form can be found here.

Borough of ConshohockenBorough of Conshohocken Human Relations Commission

Borough of Dowington – Dowington Human Relations Commission

Borough of DoylestownDoylestown Human Relations Commission – The complaint form can be found here.

City of Easton – Easton Human Relations Commission

East Norriton TownshipEast Norriton Township Human Relations Commission

Erie CountyErie County Human Relations Commission – The guide to filing a complaint can be found here.

City of FarrellCity of Farrell Human Relations Commission

City of Harrisburg- Harrisburg Human Relations Commission

Haverford Township – Haverford Human Relations Commission

City of LancasterLancaster City Human Relations Commission – The complaint form can be found here.

Lansdowne Borough -  Lansdowne Human Relations Commission

Lower Merion TownshipLower Merion Township Human Relations Commission – The complaint form can be found here.

Jenkintown BoroughJenkintown Borough Human Relations Commission

Borough of NewtonNewtown Human Relations Commission

Borough of New HopeNew Hope Human Rights Commission

City of PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia Commission on Human Relations – The complaint form can be found here.

City of PittsburghPittsburgh Commission on Human Relations – The complaint form can be found here.

City of PittstonPittston Human Relations Commission

City of ReadingReading Human Relations Commission

City of ScrantonHuman Relations Commission of the City of Scranton

Springfield Township – Springfield Township Human Relations Commission

State College BoroughState College Borough Human Relations Commission – The guide to filing a complaint can be found here. The complaint form can be found here.

Susquehanna TownshipSusquehanna Township Human Relations Commission

Swarthmore Borough - Swarthmore Human Relations Commission – The guide to filing a complaint can be found here.

Upper Merion TownshipUpper Merion Township Human Relations Commission – The guide to filing a complaint can be found here.

Borough of West Chester –West Chester Human Relations Commission

Whitemarsh TownshipWhitemarsh Township Human Relations Commission

City of YorkCity of York Human Relations Commission