by Jerry Funaro, CRP, GMS
Vice President, Global Marketing, TRC Global Mobility, Inc.
The Confused (and Confusing) State of U.S. Same-Sex Marriage Laws
National and state marriage laws can present significant obstacles in relocating same-sex couples. The U.S. Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman, and the U.S. federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in any jurisdiction.
DOMA also asserts that no state is required to recognize as a marriage a same-sex relationship that is considered a marriage in a different state. Today, 41 states have passed constitutional amendments or legislation limiting marriage to one man and one woman. In practical terms, if a transferee is legally married to a same-sex partner at the departure location, that marriage will cease to be recognized in most destination states.
To make things even more complicated, states with same-sex marriage recognize same-sex marriages from other states. States with same-sex civil unions usually recognize civil unions from other states, but not marriages. Some treat out-of-state same-sex marriages as civil unions. A handful of states that offer neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions have nonetheless recognized those statuses from other states, sometimes as domestic partnerships.
Things to Consider in LGBT Relocation
In short, a prospective transferee who has entered into a same-sex marriage or civil union in the departure location will certainly need to consider his or her legal standing in the new state. Aside from the emotional impact of becoming essentially divorced, a move to a non-marriage state could entail the loss of significant rights and benefits in terms of taxes, inheritance, medical decisions, adoption and more. Your prospective transferee will want to conduct thorough due diligence and possibly seek independent legal advice as part of the pre-decision process. A lawyer experienced in family law can craft wills and contracts to replicate some of the rights and privileges that come from a marriage or civil union.
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