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Same-sex marriage now recognized in Pennsylvania

In May 2014, Pennsylvania joined several neighboring states in recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry in its jurisdiction. One day after a judge struck down the state's Defense of Marriage Act, the governor announced that he would not appeal the judge's ruling. Couples who had previously entered into civil unions or domestic partnerships may now apply for marriage licenses. If a couple was married in another state that allows same-sex marriage, Pennsylvania will now recognize that marriage within its own borders.

If two people previously obtained a marriage license in another state, they need only start filling out forms in Pennsylvania as "married"; they do not need to take any action to let the state know that they are already married. If a couple gets married in Pennsylvania, this marriage will be recognized in the 18 other states that recognize same-sex marriage. A same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania will also be recognized by the federal government, meaning that, for example, couples will receive federal job protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Same-sex married couples will also be able to receive Social Security survivors' benefits, and they will have the chance to sponsor a foreign-born spouse for citizenship. If same-sex couples obtained a marriage license from somewhere in Pennsylvania prior to the May 20, 2014 court ruling, this license will not necessarily be recognized as valid, as litigation is currently pending on this issue. Same-sex divorce will now also be permitted in Pennsylvania if one of the individuals resides in the state.

Individuals in same-sex relationships may want to speak with an attorney to discuss other implications of Pennsylvania's recent change in the law. Now that gay couples' marriages will be legally recognized, they may want to take action to do things like update the deed to their shared homes or to request employee benefits for their same-sex spouses.

Source: ACLU, "FAQ about Marriage for Same-Sex Couples", June 04, 2014

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