For same-sex couples, a patchwork of marriage laws

As reported by David Crary of the Associated Press:

"When government forms inquire of her marital status, Isabelle Barker sometimes resorts to an asterisk and an explanatory note.

"She and her wife, Cara Palladino, got married five years ago in Massachusetts. Six months later, for job reasons, they moved to Pennsylvania - one of the majority of states that do not recognize the freedom to marry.

"Hence the asterisk.

"'I'm not single. I'm married in Massachusetts, but I'm not married in Pennsylvania, I'm not married in the eyes of the federal government,' she said. 'It's this weird limbo, this legal netherworld.'

"Barker and Palladino, and their 15-month-old son, Will, have plenty of company across the United States as gay and lesbian couples confront an unprecedented and often confusing patchwork of marriage laws.

"Historically, such laws have been the jurisdiction of the states, not the federal government, and the common practice throughout U.S. history has been for any given state to recognize a marriage performed legally in another state.

"The advent of marriage equality in 2004 has changed all that.

"Five states - Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa - and the District of Columbia have legalized the freedom to marry. New York and Maryland recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples even though those couples can't wed within their borders. California had legal marriage equality for about five months in 2008.

"However, the federal government doesn't recognize the freedom to marry, nor do the vast majority of states, including Pennsylvania. Even with a valid out-of-state marriage license, gay and lesbian couples in those states face uncertainty, extra legal bills and inevitable rebuffs that straight couples avoid.

...“'We’re 12 years into our relationship,' Palladino said. 'I’d just like to know when we’re done proving it over and over. ... To have to work harder and save harder to make up for what everybody else gets just as an entitlement does really make me angry.'

"Same-sex couples in non-recognition states received a modest boost from President Obama in April, when he ordered new rules providing such couples with visitation and medical decision-making rights in any hospital participating in Medicaid or Medicare.

"Evan Wolfson, who heads the advocacy group Freedom to Marry, called the directive 'a small, but welcome step forward.'

“'Of course, the real cure is to end exclusion from marriage,' Wolfson added. 'Piecemeal steps, addressing one protection at a time, will take up a lot more time than either the administration or American families can afford.'

Wolfson says the current patchwork not only discriminates against gay families, but also causes headaches for employers who have to consider the diverse laws as they weigh transfers of employees with same-sex partners."

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