Every same-sex couple in Pennsylvania is aware that they cannot legally marry in the state. Despite this, there are a number of same-sex couples in Berks County and across the state who have gone ahead and left the state to get married. When they come back, they can take advantage of the federal benefits of being married, but, in the eyes of the state, they are still single. This is difficult for many people, which is why 28 same-sex couples have filed a state lawsuit that would overthrow the state ban on same-sex marriage.
Although much of the language surrounding same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania is about the benefits that same-sex couples do not have access to or the fact that they are treated like second-class citizens, there is another reason why same-sex marriage is so important: same-sex divorce.
When married couples divorce, there are laws in place that mandate an equitable distribution of property. This means that one person cannot claim that everything is his or hers and leave the other spouse with nothing. In the case of unmarried people, including same-sex couples who have married elsewhere, there are no such protections. Property division for unmarried couples can be incredibly complex and often should be handled by experienced family law attorneys.
Beyond property division, however, same-sex couples who were married outside of Pennsylvania and now cannot divorce are still legally married in the eyes of the federal government, even if they are separated. Among other things, this means that they will be unable to marry again until they are officially divorced.
So, as this lawsuit moves forward, there are a number of people who will be hoping the judge will overthrow the ban just so they can get divorced.
Source: Penn Live, “Pa. lawyers defend state’s same-sex marriage ban,” Feb. 20, 2014