The word patchwork may be the best way to describe the layers of laws that governed the relationships of same-sex couples before June 26, 2015, the day the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right to marriage for gay couples in Obergefell v. Hodges (PDF).
Robert Stanley, a partner at the family law firm of Jaffe and Clemens in Beverly Hills, California, has personally navigated that patchwork. When he moved to California about 10 years ago from Georgia, he went from a state with no legal status for same-sex couples to one with domestic partnership status. Shortly after the California Supreme Court’s ruling that recognized same-sex marriage went into effect—in mid-June 2008—Stanley and his partner got married.
Then the state’s voters approved Proposition 8, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. That left Stanley’s marriage legal but prevented additional same-sex couples from marrying. Challenges to Prop 8 sprouted, and same-sex marriages again became permissible under state law in 2013.
California was hardly the only state flopping around like a beached fish when it came to the legal status of same-sex couples. Obergefell brought a conclusive end to that thrashing, and in the first four months after the decision, 96,000 same-sex couples married, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. Those unions added an estimated $813 million to state and local economies and $52 million in state and local sales tax revenue.
However, Obergefell didn’t foreclose debate on the multitude of legal issues that arise from marriage.
“I felt that once there was some U.S. Supreme Court case or national recognition of marriage that didn’t have any loopholes, everything would be fixed,” Stanley recalls. “But Obergefell didn’t change the fact that existing relationships have been through a roller coaster of legal possibilities, and all those things are playing into cases at dissolution time.”
It’s not just during breakups that these issues are emerging. They’re surfacing when babies are born or adopted, when spouses pass away, and when all the other life events that affect families take place.
“Marriage isn’t for everybody, and getting married creates a whole new set of rights and also responsibilities,” says Allen Tullar, chair of the matrimonial and family law group at Gross McGinley in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “The things you have to think about are whether you need a prenuptial agreement, what marital property is, and issues like spousal support and alimony. That’s all uncharted territory.”
In the year since Obergefell, courts have begun resolving these issues, though some answers are as yet elusive. For instance, how to divide property accrued during a long-term relationship of a same-sex couple divorcing after only a year of marriage? And what happens when a party asserts rights under federal or state religious freedom laws to decline to engage in activities for or related to parties in same-sex marriages?
Excerpt from ABA Journal of Law Article written by G.M. Filisko. Read full article at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/after_obergefell_how_the_supreme_court_ruling_on_same_sex_marriage_has_affe