The Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage a constitutional right was the beginning of new societal norms; however, many in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community are still facing legal battles as state and local lawmakers hurry to address emerging legal issues. In just the first four months after the Supreme Court ruling, 96,000 same-sex couples were married.
Just as quickly as these marriages occurred, so too did legal issues emerge relating to parenting rights, marriage and death certificates, and property settlements in divorce.
The Supreme Court decision made same-sex marriage legal, but it still left states and local municipalities in control when it came to decisions on how to interpret the law. Those states that embraced the ruling had an easier time implementing new statutes, while those opposed to the ruling still struggle with setting precedents over a year later. One of the most emotionally charged and pressing issues to emerge is the parenting rights of same-sex couples.
While most states agree to put both individual names on the birth certificate of children born during a same-sex marriage, there are some that still refuse. This excludes the non-birthing parent from their lifetime parental rights. Without a formal adoption of the child, the unnamed spouse will find it hard to demand their parental rights in the event of death or divorce.
In the case of divorce in a same-sex marriage, judges are now saddled with the problem of deciding what is fair in terms of custody and property distribution while they struggle with the precedents that their decisions will set for future cases. New cases involving what names are to be included on death certificates are also creating an area of concern. In states that refuse to acknowledge the marital partner on the official death certificate, same-sex spouses are facing legal limitations on their claims to inheritance and estate administration.
While many states have enacted laws that protect same-sex couples from discrimination, many states still have not addressed this issue. Discrimination against gay spouses can take many forms, including refusal to provide business services. In some states, discrimination suits have been filed against bakeries that have refused to provide wedding cakes or social facilities that have refused to book venues for same-sex marriage celebrations.
While federal laws under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect certain individuals from being refused services based on discriminatory reasons such as race, religion, sex, or age, federal law does not yet provide protection for same-sex couples. Merchants and service providers in certain states still have the right to refuse service to those that violate their moral or religious beliefs, leaving the market open for some to legally refuse services to gay couples. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 200 new laws pertaining to same-sex marriage have been introduced in 32 states in the past year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gary Miles
Gary Miles has practiced law in Maryland since 1978, having graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law with numerous awards and honors. He graduated summa cum laude from Loyola College in 1975. Gary is an advocate of mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution and has completed 80 hours of mediation training with the Maryland State Bar Association.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.
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