With the announcement of last week’s Supreme Court decision, proponents of same sex marriage rejoiced and Facebook became much more colorful. After a weekend of celebrating the new-found rights of my gay and lesbian friends, neighbors and colleagues, I sat down today to read all 103 pages of the majority decision and dissenting opinions, including a particularly “colorful” dissent from Justice Scalia.
There have been rumors for months that the Supreme Court was going to make a final decision about how America will handle gay marriage.
As of today, I’m thrilled to report that gay marriage is now the law of the land!
For the couples around the country who have waited for years to make their unions legally official, for their children, for all of us who champion equality – this is so good on so many levels.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, author of today’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States, said it best.
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live
I hope you all are enjoying this gorgeous fall morning. I’ve been sneaking peaks at the SCOTUS law blog to see what was going to happen with all the pending gay marriage appeals. Today is the day the Supreme Court was going to announce the cases it will be hearing this year.
I’m happy to share that today the Supreme Court denied certiorari on ALL of the gay marriage cases. (That’s lawyer speak for “refused to hear.”) In effect this means that the lower court rulings, all of which allowed gay marriage, stand.
Until I got online last night I hadn’t realized that we are ten years out from the Goodridge decision. I can still remember where I was when I read it back in 2003, and it was the only time I had ever cried (I was so moved by the language) when reading a decision. It wasn’t until last night that I realized Peter Zupcofska, my partner in the Private Client Group here, had written an amicus brief on behalf of Goodridge.
In the 10 years since Goodridge, gay marriage has become woven into the social fabric of Massachusetts. Initially due to DOMA, the legal process of both gay marriage and gay divorce was extremely complicated.
Over the course of time other states joined Massachusetts, some not allowing gay marriage but allowing gay divorce of couples legally married in another state.
This past June, DOMA was overturned by the Supreme Court. Since then, gay divorce, at least in Massachusetts and the other states that allow gay marriage/divorce has become simpler, cleaner and more straightforward.
What an exciting week! I’m pleased to share the following alert regarding DOMA that my colleagues Lisa Cukier, Christine Fletcher and Peter Zupcofska put together today for clients and friends of our firm. As we celebrate the fall of DOMA there are still lots of legal issues facing gay and lesbian couples in the states that don’t recognize gay marriage.
U.S. Supreme Court Declares DOMA Unconstitutional: What You Need to Know
Yesterday in a historic decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by declaring it unconstitutional. In the case, United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples living in the states that recognize their marriage are entitled to receive the same federal benefits as any other married couple in those states.This important ruling has myriad implications and touches upon many areas of law affecting same-sex couples across the country. For example, estate plans for same-sex couples were previously drafted to take advantage of benefits available within the 13 states and the District of Columbia that recognize same-sex marriage; nevertheless, estate plans had to be drafted around DOMA, which denied … Keep reading
The Supreme Court announces today whether or not they are going to take up a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act in a case arising out of Social Security benefits. As promised, here is a different point of view to last week’s post. This one is authored by my partner Lisa Cukier, one of our experts in the intricacies of gay and lesbian divorce.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed in 1996, denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples. DOMA denies the existence of same-sex marriages by stating that marriages may only be between one man and one woman. Consequently, the federal government is allowed to deny gay spouses certain marriage-based advantages that straight spouses routinely and unquestionably receive, such as tax advantages, health and retirement benefits, Veteran’s benefits, Social Security Administration benefits and other federally based advantages, thus treating gay married Americans as second class citizens.
Social Security benefits, such as survivor’s benefits that permit a widow to receive her deceased spouse’s Social Security after her spouse’s death, are one such federal benefit. Gay widows and widowers are ineligible for their late spouse’s Social Security simply because they … Keep reading
Twitter is an amazing way to get as-it-happens news and other information affecting our lives – and divorces.
As always, I find that the Twitter account, @SCOTUS, is the best for delivering timely updates to help us truly understand what is going on at the Supreme Court of the United States (also known as “SCOTUS”). If you are following the gay marriage legal arguments, here is SCOTUSblog’s best, clearest, analysis of the whole thing so far.… Keep reading
If you read this blog I am sure you already guessed that I was thrilled to hear that the Federal Court has found California’s Prop 8 (the vote that overturned gay marriage in California) unconstitutional. There is still a long, long way to go, but this is a terrific decision in my book.
A question that often comes up in divorces is what happens to the engagement ring. Once you are married it clearly is a gift that belongs to the spouse who wore it. However if it was a family piece it can sometimes go back to the giftor. It’s value is included in the division of assets. David Clement, who writes the terrific New York Divorce Blog, had a recent post on this. Jewelry is generally worth only about a third of the purchase price so that can be a shock. Often someone will need to sell the ring for legal fees, or simply because the memories are bad. A colleague just sent me a link to what looks like a terrific site if you wish to sell.
It really doesn’t seem possible that Thanksgiving is this week (what I am really saying is I am having 27 folks for dinner and I am so not ready)!
This week’s miscellany includes a really useful tool for parents, divorced and not, to handle scheduling through the Internet. I have long been in favor of divorced parents communicating via email. In fact, we have been known to train clients in how to keep the conversation civil. This service, as lawyer/blogger Michelle O’Neil points out in the excellent Dallas Divorce Law Blog, has even been utilized as a tool by the courts.
In Massachusetts, however, the Appeals Court in what is known as a "slip opinion" (a slip opinion does not have the dis-positive force of law, but can be utilized as part of a court argument or brief), has extended the time concept of the length of a single sex marriage backwards from the date of marriage to the date of the couples’ commitment ceremony. This means that gay couples may be considered to have been married longer than in fact they were. This is not the first time Massachusetts has made this determination (again in a slip opinion). This potentially has huge significance for divorcing single sex couples.
There is however a Supreme Judicial Court decision, and in Massachusetts, SJC decisions always trump Appeals Court decisions. The SJC held that in a personal injury matter, the length of the marriage was ONLY that time in which the parties were indeed married.
This has the effect of muddying the already murky water of single sex divorce in Massachusetts a little bit more.