Minnesota is approaching an important anniversary: Two years ago this August, same-sex marriage became legal here. We became the 12th state to allow same-sex couples to enjoy the same rights and privileges as opposite-sex couples. Now, same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
The struggle for gay marriage has not only been focused on the right to marry. Some states have also refused to recognize legal marriages and even legal domestic partnerships from other states. Minnesota now recognizes all legal unions, but we didn't always: The law changed just a month before same-sex marriage became legal.
This patchwork of laws required some creative thinking for LGBT couples relocating to "unfriendly" states. One couple had a legal domestic partnership from New York when they moved to Philadelphia in the early '90s. Pennsylvania, however, did not recognize their legal status. In an instant, they were no longer one another's next-of-kin.
Without that status, they could not take advantage of property rights and government benefits, for example, that come with a legal union. And, of course, they could not make health care decisions for one another. So they opted for the next best thing: adoption.
One partner, older by two years, legally adopted the other.
In 2014, the law changed in Pennsylvania, and for the first time they could marry and have their marriage recognized in their state of residence. The only thing that stood in the way was their legal status as father and son.
Like Minnesota, Pennsylvania has some basic rules about who can and cannot marry. Minnesota law uses broad language -- a marriage between "an ancestor and a descendant ... whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood or by adoption" is prohibited -- Pennsylvania is more particular. For example, the law bars a marriage between a man and his mother or the sister of his father. A closer reading of the statute shows that the law encompasses adopted children, as well.
The upshot was that the adoption stood in the way of the marriage. This wouldn't be a problem if dissolving that relationship were as simple (a relative term) as dissolving a marriage. It isn't, though.
In fact, as a rule, you cannot undo an adoption.
We'll continue this in our next post.
Source: News on 6, "Gay couple has adoption vacated now that they can marry," Michael Rubinkam, May 22, 2015