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Same-sex couples still face challenges in the U.S.

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

Residents of this state are likely aware that same-sex marriage became legal in New Jersey, as well as federally recognized, last year. Since then, gay and lesbian couples have been protected by most of the same state and federal laws that govern marriages among opposite-sex couples. This includes most tax benefits, health insurance benefits and the right to adopt or divorce.

However, there are still many states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. This might present some challenges for the roughly 16,800 same-sex couples who currently live in New Jersey, (according to a recent analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census.) It may not seem like it, but state-level laws regarding same-sex marriage can impact couples across the country.

If a couple moves out of New Jersey and into another state that does not legally recognize their union, they could face some very serious obstacles when it comes to protecting their rights. They may not be allowed to divorce or secure custody of a non-biological child. It can be extremely difficult to access health benefits or enforce the terms of an estate plan. Moreover, certain federal benefits arise from the state of residency (where you live) versus the state of celebration (where you were married).

Unless and until every state passes or upholds the same laws regarding same-sex marriage, it will continue to be difficult for people to know what they can expect and how they might be able to prepare for certain scenarios across the nation.

Any person can face serious obstacles when it comes to protecting his or her rights as a spouse or part of a couple. It is very common to have concerns and questions about any matter that impacts a family, which is why it can be so helpful to discuss legal options with an attorney. Because same-sex marriage has only recently been recognized in this state, members of the LGBT community in particular can benefit from learning about their rights and the rights of their family members.

Source: USA Today, “Tracking same-sex marriage rulings in the states,” Richard Wolf, June 24, 2014

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