Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gay Marriage: Most Of Us Are Still Outlaws

Gay Marriage: Most Of Us Are Still Outlaws

I've been going back and forth with a friend on Cape Cod this evening trying to explain the recent SCOTUS ruling on same sex marriage. This friend lives in New York part time, and was married in New York to his husband, but his *main* legal place of residence is in Pennsylvania where same sex marriage is NOT recognized. So basically he's in the same position Tony and I are in as residents of Pennsylvania where same sex marriage is NOT recognized on a state level...unless he establishes full time New York residency.

My friend was thrilled, like we all were thrilled, to hear the ruling about same sex marriage. And then he e-mailed me and said Tony and I should get married in New York so we can get the federal recognition at the very least, even if we cannot get the state recognition in PA. All that sounds wonderful, but there's an important point my friend missed. If you are a same sex couple and you live in a state, and you have residency in a state, where same sex marriage is NOT recognized, you are not eligible for federal recognition. The court made a point of explaining this.

This article is the best I could find so far, and this section sums it all up very neatly:

2. Where you live matters more than it ever did.

Those lucky enough to live in states that recognize their marriages are upgraded to full state and federal benefits based on the DOMA ruling. Those who don’t live in such states remain in much the same situation as before.

Geography could play a big role in how the federal government implements the Supreme Court’s ruling. Social Security, for example, recognizes marriages based on the policies of the state where a beneficiary lives, says Peter W. Martin, a Cornell University law professor who specializes in the entitlement program. That means that two men married in Massachusetts but living in Florida, which bans gay marriage, likely wouldn't get spousal benefits.

The Supreme Court’s DOMA decision could create stark contrasts. In Pennsylvania, for example, a same-sex couple gets no recognition at all. If they get married out of state, they can't even file for divorce in Pennsylvania, which is a major inconvenience, says Julia Swain, a partner at law firm Fox Rothschild LLP in Philadelphia.

You can read more here. It also states that the Obama administration could work aggressively to give out as many federal benefits as possible, which I'm hoping is the case.

But I honestly don't know how to get that point across any clearer, as things stand right now as I write this post. Yes, the ruling was historic and it brought us all one step closer to full equality. Yes, I'm thrilled it happened and I'm thrilled for same sex couples who live in states where they are fortunate enough to be recognized. However, Tony and I, and millions of other gay couples in this country, are basically still screwed and we are still outlaws.

And if you live in a state where gay marriage is not recognized yet (like PA) and you think that by getting married in a state where it is recognized you're going to be recognized on a federal level because of this ruling, you'd better check out all the legal details. If it were, Tony and I would have been in New York today.

So those of you who think the fight for equality is over should take a closer look at this ruling, and even though it is a time to celebrate and things are moving forward, it's not time to take down the equality banners just yet. There is still a long way to go for many of us.

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