How do the new same-sex marriage laws affect my rights as a gay or lesbian spouse? 0

Understanding the Laws Around Legal Marriage for Same Sex Couples

With the recent changes in some states regarding same-sex marriage, many gay and lesbian couples are hoping that these new laws also mean some new protections for their spousal rights.

The truth is, though, there is still no federal recognition for gay and lesbian spouses. Your only recognition or protection will come from the laws of your state and, because these laws differ so much, there is no answer that can be applied nationwide.

For example, while New Jersey does not have laws that specifically legalize same-sex marriage, it does offer civil unions that provide state-level spousal rights. Other states such as South Dakota, Texas andOklahoma provide no rights at all for same-sex couples and do not recognize any form of legal union among gay and lesbian couples. Still other states have not enacted laws of their own to address the issue but they do recognize same-sex marriages that were considered to be legal in the state they were performed.

This raises some serious questions for same-sex couples. Without protective laws in place, they cannot be guaranteed the normal rights and benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples. The right to make medical decisions for their spouse, for example, or the right to inherit if the spouse should die – these are important life issues that need to be addressed and if the state has not provided laws to establish these protections, then the gay and lesbian couples must do it themselves.

The first step in making sure that you and your spouse are adequately protected is to know the laws of your state. Find out if your state recognizes same-sex marriage and, if it doesn’t, dig a little deeper to determine if it provides for alternate types of unions such as domestic partnerships and/or civil unions. Currently, only a few states allow same sex marriages – though the law in this area is constantly evolving.

Additionally, you’ll want to know what types of rights accompany these unions and what laws are in place to ensure that you receive them.

You may also want to read this book on gay and lesbian medical rights as well as this book on gay and lesbian divorce for further assistance in this area.


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