People in Maryland know that same-sex marriage was legalized at the beginning of this year, and many celebrated this triumph of equality that allowed same-sex partners to be treated the same way as traditional married couples under state law. With the change came some uneasy questions as well, such as how courts and agencies would handle same-sex divorces and how couples’ state and federal benefits would be divided at the end of a relationship.
While people will likely have to wait to figure out the federal benefit issue until the Supreme Court’s decision comes out regarding the validity of the Defense of Marriage Act, Maryland same-sex partners now know that they will indeed have to be married in order to receive state benefits. Earlier this month Governor O’Malley announced that domestic partners, who previously were able to get benefits such as health insurance coverage from their partner, will now have to be legally married in order to receive those benefits.
The move was made in response to a perceived argument that opposite-sex couples who were not married could otherwise sue for the same benefits as same-sex unmarried couples, thus requiring the state to fork over additional money in health expenses. On the other hand, critics say that the state should not force people in to having to marry simply so that they can get health insurance benefits.
Moreover, on a practical level, same-sex partners may have more difficulty in obtaining a divorce, especially if they wish to do so in another state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. So if a marriage borne out of a wish to keep health care dissolves, couples could find themselves in a problematic situation. An experienced family law attorney can provide the guidance and counsel needed to understand and navigate this evolving area of law.
Source: The Examiner, “Maryland: State workers must marry for partners to receive benefits,” Andy Brownfield, May 5, 2013