In our society, it’s not unusual for people to move across the country to pursue a job opportunity-or some other dream. In fact, it’s less and less common for married couples to live in the same place their whole lives. But when it comes to same-sex marriages, moving to another state can complicate things.
Let’s start with what we know. Same-sex couples tend to be highly mobile. That means there is a good chance that gay and lesbian couples who marry in Connecticut (or in any other state that permits same-sex marriages) will either immediately leave the state or will not reside forever in the same state in which they were married.
Here’s how it usually works: States have the right to decide if they will recognize same-sex marriages or not-even if they were legally performed in other states. It’s true that many states accept and recognize legal marriages performed in other states, but there are still some states that refuse to accept their validity. Same-sex marriages tend to fall into that latter category in most states.
Currently, every state that allows same-sex marriages also recognizes same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. However, most states still do not permit same-sex marriages. And only New York, Rhode Island and Maryland (which do not allow gay and lesbian couples to legally marry) officially accept sister-state same-sex marriages.
It seems likely that sister-state same-sex marriages will also be recognized in California, although the status of such marriages in California is presently unclear. Thus, a same-sex couple who marry lawfully in Connecticut and moves to Florida will be deemed unmarried under the laws of their new state of residence.
Just as the federal Defense of Marriage Act, also known as DOMA, determines many economic and immigration benefits, state law issues may be extremely important in determining such equally important matters as inheritance rights, health insurance, medical decisions and same-sex divorce.
Let’s consider two females who get married in Connecticut and have a child via artificial insemination. In this example, under Connecticut law, both parties will be considered parents of the child. However, the non-biological parent will not be considered related to the child under the laws of most states. If a court battle or a divorce ensues, the non-biological parent would not have rights to legal custody of the child. What’s more, if she leaves her non-biological child an inheritance, it could be successfully challenged.
These are just some of the issues that you need to consider as you enter same-sex marriages. There are others as they relate to both federal and sister-state rules-and they could have major implications on the benefits aspects of your same-sex marriage. Seek legal counsel to protect your rights.
Hilary B. Miller is a prominent Connecticut attorney on the cutting edge of same-sex marriage and divorce issues. Miller is also active in pro bono litigation of AIDS-related claims, including family, employment and insurance matters. He graduated from Fordham University School of Law and is admitted to the Connecticut, New York and District of Columbia bars. If you need expert advice on same-sex marriages, visit Miller’s family-law web site at www.ct-divorce.com.