Before May 20, 2014 Pennsylvania same sex couples had to be quite creative in order to secure the same rights as their married heterosexual counterparts. Then, on May 20, 2014 everything changed. Same sex couples no longer needed to worry about being taxed to cover their life time partner on their employer-related health insurance. They no longer had to worry about not being listed as a “spouse” on a death certificate if their life partner passed away nor did they have to worry about whether they would be entitled to any portion of their partner’s estate. A “sea change” occurred on May 20th and all for the better.
The practice of family law also changed dramatically. No longer did family law practitioners have to think “outside the box” to represent these same sex couples in trying to dissolve their relationships. Those couples “wed locked” for years finally had the opportunity to file a divorce complaint and request equitable distribution of the property accumulated during the relationship. These couples also now had the ability to request alimony. Prior to May 20th there was no such thing for same sex married couples.
Whitewood v. Wolf changed so much for so many people and only for the better. Same sex couples can now legally marry in Pennsylvania. These couples no longer have to travel long distances just to have a marriage ceremony in a state that legally recognizes their relationship only to then travel back to their home state of Pennsylvania and hope some day their marriage will be recognized. As of May 20th those marriages became valid whether they were performed outside the state or in their home state! A same sex couple only has to have a “destination wedding” if they want to. If they opt to marry in their backyard of their home town in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania then they can do so and over the last twelve months they have been – in droves!
Hundreds of same sex couples have availed themselves of the opportunity to marry in Pennsylvania. And after the backyard ceremony is completed they now automatically enjoy all of the rights and benefits afforded to their friends and neighbors. And if some day the relationship dissolves then these divorcing couples can now finally access the family court system to resolve their differences just like their friends and neighbors have done for years past.
By: Helen Casale