For Some Gays, Getting Married to Their Own “Children” a Legal Nightmare
Before the Supreme Court’s ruling which legalized same-sex marriage across the country, a number of couples, who desperately wanted assurance that their partners could have hospital visitation rights, amongst other benefits, did what they thought was the only thing possible: They literally adopted their significant other as their “child” so they could legally get these assurances.
However, now that marriage equality is the law of the land, there’s even a larger problem: These “fathers and sons” and “mothers and daughters” want to marry each other. But they can’t.
Take the case of Bucks County couple Bill Novak and Norman MacArthur who back in 2000 took the steps to become “father and son” through adoption: The men did this because if one part of the couple ended up hospitalized, the other would be notified. This was a decision made out of necessity, until Pennsylvania legalized same-sex marriage in 2014. Their story became national news after Novak and MacArthur had their adoption nullified and thus were able to get married.
But many couples aren’t as lucky as Novak and MacArthur. In Pennsylvania and at least 25 other states, marriage between a parent and adopted child is considered incest and is illegal. This conundrum is causing several lawmakers to speak up, asking for the federal government to step in and provide legal guidance for these types of previous gay adoptions.
A letter written today by Senator Bob Casey, sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, addresses the “legal limbo” of such cases. In part, he writes:
“It has come to my attention that despite the recent Obergefell v. Hodges ruling allowing same-sex marriage throughout the country, some older LGBT couples face challenges in exercising their newly obtained right to marriage equality. Specifically because, as recently as just a few years ago, many LGBT couples did not believe they would receive equal marriage rights in their lifetime, some chose to go through an adoption process where one partner adopted the other in order to establish legal protections such as hospital visiting privileges and inheritance rights.”
Casey calls for the Department of Justice to issue “guidance for courts across the country so that gay couples who ave previously entered adoptions can annul them in order to receive marriage licenses. Prior decisions such as the one made in Bucks County, Pennsylvania may provide the legal foundation for such guidance.”
Until then, there’s no telling how many of these fathers and sons “on paper” are being denied their rights to wed, all because they thought not that long ago that the only foolproof way to gain other rights was through the adoption loophole.