California law recognizes four different classes of same-sex couples with official relationship status: First are those couples who married in California during the brief window after the state's Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal but before Proposition 8 was passed. They remain legally married in the state's eyes. Then there are the couples living in California who married outside the state before Proposition 8. They too are considered married in California. Then there are couples who have entered into domestic partnerships in California or in other places where they are legal. Finally, there are those who married in states where marriage is legal, but they did so after Proposition 8. They are considered de facto domestic partners in California. Of course, despite their differences, all of these couples share a striking commonality: They are considered single under federal law.
Things are even worse in some states. Imagine a married couple that moves to a state without even a domestic partnership law: The couple suddenly goes from being legally married to being legal strangers.....
If this all seems absurdly confusing, it is. The messy situation puts into stark relief the complexities that arise when only some states offer full equality to lesbians and gay men, and it highlights the shakiness of a discriminatory system that will continue to yield countless stories of hardship.
The experiences of legally married couples moving to other states puts the issue in sharp relief. People are entering into marriage only to find themselves in legal limbo when a new job or family circumstances necessitate a move. Constitutional principles of due process and equal protection cannot tolerate such discriminatory treatment based solely on sexual orientation.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Married but Unequal
From today's LA Time:, a slam-dunk op-ed: