Is DOMA Still in Effect?
This post addresses the question is DOMA still in effect and what the answer means for same sex divorce.
Same Sex Marriage in Florida
Wednesday marked a critical juncture in American history. The Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, was declared unconstitutional. This means Florida gay marriage laws banning same sex marriage are no longer kosher under the marriage doma standard.
The Revolution that may end Florida Same Sex Marriage Laws
For many of us, the right to marry is something we take for granted. Given less consideration than choosing whether or not to go for that extra shot of espresso in our morning macchiato. In fact, younger generations have rebelled against the idea of ‘til death do us part’. Many choose to simply shack up with their partners, à la Brad and Angelina. Others acquiesce to the old ball and chain because they know the D-train is always an option if things ever get a little too real.
If the Answer to ‘Is DOMA Still in Effect’ is No, What Does that Mean for Same Sex Divorce?
Even if you have taken an oath to live your life as a perpetual bachelor, it’s nice to know you have options. Should the day come when you glance at your live-in companion over breakfast; the sunlight hitting her face in a way that makes your heart stop at the thought of ever losing her. With the knowlege that you have the ability and right to put a ring on it and make it official. Consequently, this is the very match in the powder barrel that blew DOMA apart. And rightfully so.
Before getting to same sex divorce, lets explore marriages states benefits. Married couples, indeed, receive many advantages. For example, exemptions from estate taxes, which was the crux of the DOMA challenge. Also, social security benefits, the right to file joint tax returns and the ability to sponsor a spouse for an immigration visa (huge). Florida gay marriage laws denied same sex couples these rights under individual state laws.
Getting Rid of Florida Same Sex Marriage Laws means Same Sex Divorce is On the Horizon
Of course, the topic of a same sex couples divorce is fascinating in and of itself. The inner struggle that must accompany the decision to sever a bond you had previously been forbidden from forming seems incomprehensible. This is especially true when the idea of marriage is so novel that the thrill of being able to walk down the aisle overshadows any intimation of a possible divorce.
Before DOMA was overturned, a majority of the states echoed Florida’s gay marriage laws. As a result, same sex marriage is still relatively new. This makes it impossible to procure accurate statistics of same sex divorce. Still, it can be assumed that Jim & John have the same chance of enjoying wedded bliss as Candi & Ron. Unfortunately, that’s not a very encouraging outlook.
Why the Answer to ‘Is DOMA Still in Effect’ Matters
Whether you choose to admit it or not, marriage changes a relationship. Being legally bound to someone, financially and otherwise, can take its toll. And you best believe Palm Beach County divorce is a lot more complicated and painful then divvying up your Madonna records and grabbing your vintage Judy Garland photo off the living room wall. Compare this to years of protracted litigation in family court and this kind of clean break sounds pretty freakin good. That said, the atrocity of gay marriage laws denied couples the ability to even contemplate Florida marriage.
Same Sex Divorce Statistics in other States Provide Perspective as to what We Can Expect from the End of Florida Same Sex Marriage Laws
Perhaps you believe that same sex couples will have a higher tolerance to the darker side of matrimony. Take the case that led to the landmark decision legalizing gay marriage in Massachusetts. The plaintiffs in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, found themselves in family court three years after tying the knot. An anomaly, you say? One of the first same-sex couples to wed in California, Wesley Nyberg and Thomas Adkins, had spent SEVENTEEN YEARS together before taking the plunge. They separated just thirteen days after exchanging vows.
Like most everything in life, divorce is what you make of it. For many, it can be a very cathartic and empowering experience. Divorce can provide closure. And, again, the tax benefits can keep a couple divorce from forking over serious dough to Uncle Sam. Unfortunately, even with the Supreme Court’s decision overturning these federal laws, serious challenges still exist for many same-sex couples who want out of their marriage. Having left the decision to states as to whether or not they choose to recognize same-sex unions is tricky. Same-sex couples living in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage are forced to seek dissolution in a state that does. The residency requirement contained in the majority of divorce state statutes further complicates matters.
The Role that Florida Same Sex Marriage Laws Played in the DOMA Controversy
The controversy surrounding accessibility of divorce for same sex couples was brought to light by a Florida couple fed up with Florida gay marriage laws. The couple gave up their dream of a Florida marriage and married in Ontario. Only to return four years later to seek a same sex divorce. Anyone coming to the realization that it’s time to throw up deuces to their once intended soul mate knows one thing. The ball and chain connecting you can’t be severed quickly enough.
Florida had ruled the ladies marriage invalid. As a result, they high tailed it across the border to seek a divorce from the family court that had pronounced them wife and wife. Much to the ladies’ chagrin, they were told that non-Canucks were only able to undo the bonds of matrimony if they had been living in Canada for at least a year. And who really wants to do that? Kidding… kind of.
The residency laws state another challenge same sex couples aren’t likely to consider when planning their long anticipated nuptials. But this pales in comparison to the obstacles present when children are thrown in to the mix. States like Florida that don’t recognize a non-biological parent who has provided financial and emotional support to a child to be in loco parentis (in the place of a parent) complicate this. These jurisdiction and custody issues, combined with parties spending decades together before taking advantage of their new right to join the rest of us in our march to the altar, should raise a red flag. Same sex couples would be wise to take a page from their heterosexual counterparts. That is, to finally realize the importance of getting an effective prenup before reciting their vows.
The Ideology behind Florida Same Sex Marriage Laws should be Remembered as a Travesty
With the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the appeal to California’s Proposition 8, 37% of America’s same sex couples now reside in states that allow gay marriage. While this is surely a cause for celebration, the fight is far from over. The Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that there are still 5.5 million LGBT Americans and 800,000 same-sex couples living in states where the right to marry and the right to same sex divorce is not an option.
Despite the monumental step towards equality this week, it is apparent that many states, including Florida, aren’t ready or willing to jump on the same sex marriage bandwagon. When asked for his comment on the Supreme Court’s ruling, Senator Marco Rubio encapsulated this. “The sweeping language of today’s majority opinion is more troubling than the ruling itself as it points to further interference by the Court in the years to come.”
Closing Thoughts on Florida Same Sex Divorce
Remarks like those made by Senator Rubio, and mirrored by many of his conservative counterparts, triggered me to think of words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.’
Hopefully one day we can look back in disbelief at the divide between rights allowed to gay and straight Americans. The Court’s DOMA decision needs to serve as a symbol that it’s finally time for us to rid ourselves of the type of ignorance and hatred that only serves to separate us. We must march forward until liberty and justice is truly afforded to all is the only option. Regardless of skin color, religion or sexual orientation. In the wise words of Dr. King, ‘if America is to be a great nation this must become true.’
 After spending 15 months awaiting approval from Parliament, a bill closing this loophole was recently passed and is currently awaiting royal approval.
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