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Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce Rights in Pennsylvania

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Same-sex marriage and divorce rights in Pennsylvania can be confusing and overwhelming. This article will answer 12 of the most frequently asked questions about same-sex marriage and divorce rights in Pennsylvania. It will explain the current legal status of same-sex marriage and divorce in the state, and provide insight on the legal process associated with same-sex marriage and divorce in Pennsylvania. The article will also provide suggestions on where to go for assistance and resources if needed. By the end, readers should have a better understanding of same-sex marriage and divorce rights in Pennsylvania and how to navigate the legal process.

same sex parents

When did gay marriage became legal in Pennsylvania?

On May 20, 2014, Pennsylvania became the 19th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The move came after an order from U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who declared Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional and struck down the state’s 1996 law prohibiting same-sex marriage.

The ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought in 2013 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) on behalf of 23 plaintiffs. The lawsuit argued that Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

In his opinion, Judge Jones wrote that “[t]he issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of ‘separate but equal.’”

Judge Jones’ ruling had immediate effect, and same-sex couples throughout the state began applying for marriage licenses. In addition, the ruling also allowed same-sex couples who had previously been married in other states to have their marriages recognized in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s legalization of same-sex marriage was part of a broader wave of change that swept the nation in 2014. In the span of just a few months, six more states – Oregon, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Utah – had their bans on same-sex marriage overturned by the courts.

By the end of 2014, same-sex marriage had been legalized in a total of 35 states, including Pennsylvania. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right and that all states must recognize same-sex marriages.

Today, same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. The legalization of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania was a major milestone in the fight for marriage equality, and it has allowed countless same-sex couples throughout the state to experience the joys of marriage.

Q: Is same-sex marriage legal in Pennsylvania?

A: Yes, same-sex marriage has been legal in Pennsylvania since May 20, 2014.

Q: Are there any residency requirements for same-sex couples in Pennsylvania to get married?

A: No, there are no residency requirements to get married in Pennsylvania.

Q: Are same-sex couples eligible to receive a marriage license in Pennsylvania?

A: Yes, same-sex couples are eligible to receive a marriage license in Pennsylvania.

Q: Does Pennsylvania recognize same-sex marriages from other states?

A: Yes, Pennsylvania recognizes same-sex marriages from other states.

Q: Are same-sex couples eligible for divorce in Pennsylvania?

A: Yes, same-sex couples are eligible for divorce in Pennsylvania. Divorcing same-sex couples now have access to the Pennsylvania courts just as opposite-sex couples, with all the same rights and obligations as married couples under the Pennsylvania law. Before May 20, 2014 couples who lived in our state were essentially “wed-locked” as they did not have access to the Pennsylvania courts. Most often, parties wishing to divorce had to go to another state where the marriage was recognized, establish residency, then proceed with the divorce process.

Q: If I was married in another state prior to May 20, 2014, will my marriage be recognized in Pennsylvania?

A: Yes. If you married in another state, your marriage will now be recognized in Pennsylvania and you will have all the rights and obligations of opposite sex married couples under Pennsylvania law. There is no need to get married again here in Pennsylvania.

Q: If I entered into a civil union or domestic partnership in another state prior to May 20, 2014, will my civil union or domestic partnership be recognized in Pennsylvania?

A: Probably not. The Pennsylvania case that made same-sex equality into law makes no reference to civil unions or domestic partnerships. So, it is unclear what, if any, recognition will be given to those statuses. If you and your partner want the rights of a married couple, you should legally wed. Additionally, the federal government does not recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships as the equivalent of marriage for federal tax purposes. You would still need to get married in order to file your taxes as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.”

Additional FAQs about Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce Rights in Pennsylvania

Q: What date should I list as the date of my marriage on documents and forms?

A: The date you were actually married, not the date Pennsylvania recognized the marriage.

Q: If I get married, can I change my last name to be the same as my spouse through the marriage license?

A: Yes. Just as an opposite-sex couple can complete their marriage license to reflect your desired last name, so now can same-sex couples.

Q: How does marriage affect my ability to ad my spouse’s name to the deed of my house?

A: You can now add your new spouse’s name to the deed of your house without incurring real estate transfer tax or needing to refinance your mortgage.

Q: If I have a Cohabitation Agreement with my partner and we then marry, is our agreement still valid?

A: Usually, a cohabitation agreement is voided by a subsequent marriage. If you want any of the terms from your prior agreement to carry over, it may be a smart idea to draft and sign a prenuptial agreement.

The legal landscape for same-sex couples in Pennsylvania is constantly evolving. There are still some unresolved legal issues, and same-sex couples should consult a knowledgeable attorney before proceeding with a divorce. Understanding the law and your rights is essential to making sure your rights are respected.

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