Connecticut Marriage Entitlement for Gay and Lesbian Couples
On October 10, 2008, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued its decision in Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health in which it ruled that same-sex couples could not be denied the right to marry in Connecticut. Judge Jonathan E. Silbert signed the final judgment on November 12, 2008 and same-sex marriage became a reality in Connecticut.
Gay and lesbian couples are now entitled to the same state rights and protections as their heterosexual counterparts. However, the federal Defense of Marriage Act restricts marriage as between one man and one woman. Same-sex marriages, therefore, do not receive federal recognition. In fact, the majority of states and most foreign countries also do not recognize same-sex marriage.Issues to Consider Before Entering Into Marriage in Connecticut
- Entering into a marriage will revoke your existing Last Will and Testament;
- If you are in the process of adopting or are considering adopting a child, marriage may provide a barrier. Most foreign countries and some U.S. states prohibit same-sax couples from adopting but do allow single-parent adoptions;
- You may be disqualified from certain state government programs because your spouse’s income and assets may be included with your own;
- Connecticut law provides that married persons are responsible for their spouse’s debts including medical bills, rent and the purchase of items that support the family or benefit the couple;
- Connecticut law provides that a spouse generally cannot disinherit a spouse by leaving that spouse out of her/his will unless the couple has signed a valid prenuptial agreement;
- Your marriage cannot be dissolved without meeting specific residency requirements in the State of Connecticut, and other states may or may not allow you to obtain a dissolution of marriage outside of Connecticut;
- If you choose to dissolve your marriage, a court will determine the division of your property, alimony, child support and visitation, and other related issues, if the couple cannot agree on their own;
- Absent a clear prenuptial agreement addressing the question, a court may consider any property owned by either or both of the parties as property subject to distribution in a dissolution proceeding;
- An employer-sponsored domestic partnership plan may require you to be “unmarried” in order to qualify;
- Foreign nationals should not marry without consulting an experienced immigration attorney. Applying for a change in immigration status based on a marriage to a same-sex partner could lead to deportation or future denials of visa applications; and
- Marriage is a legal status that will have to be disclosed on forms and records in both public and private contexts.
A marriage between a heterosexual couple is portable, meaning that it is recognized in all 50 states. A heterosexual couple married in Connecticut is considered married no matter where they travel or relocate. Heterosexual marriages can be dissolved in any state. By contrast, a valid Connecticut marriage between a same-sex couple is not portable, meaning that a same-sex couple is not considered legally married in those states and/or foreign countries that do not recognize same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriages can only be dissolved in states that recognize such marriages. Here are some key differences between heterosexual and same-sex marriages:
- Heterosexual married couples enjoy all of the rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities offered by the federal government, including spousal veterans benefits, spousal social security benefits, and federal tax benefits.
- Same-sex couples entering into marriage are not recognized by the federal government and do not enjoy any rights, benefits, protections or responsibilities offered by the federal government to their heterosexual married counterparts. For example, a same sex couple who have entered into marriage cannot file a joint federal return nor can they collect their partner’s social security or veteran’s survivor benefits.
The following table illustrates the main differences between heterosexual and same-sex marriage:Heterosexual Marriage
- Portable (universally recognized)
- Federally Recognized
- Can be dissolved in any state
- Not Portable (No universal recognition)
- Not Federally Recognize
- Can only be dissolved in states recognizing same-sex marriage