From Berks County comes word of a Pennsylvania lesbian couple stuck in legal limbo. They married in Massachusetts, but to obtain a Massachusetts divorce will need to reside there for one year. To get divorced in Pennsylvania, their marriage has to be legal in Pennsylvania which it is not. Thus, their divorce petition was turned down.
Berks County is in Southeastern Pennsylvania
This is certainly not the first report of a same sex couple caught in a legal limbo due to the patchwork quilt of marriage equality laws in the United States and they certainly aren't the only couple in Pennsylvania who face this dilemna. Faced with the dissolution of marriage, it is unreasonable to expect someone to move to Mass just to obtain a divorce.
Pennsylvania has just recently squelched attemps to amend the PA constitution to restrict marriage to one man, one woman. Another bill is sitting in the Senate which would legalize same sex marriage. That's not going to happen, but I'd certainly like to see elected leaders such as Pennsylvania Senator Daylin Leach tackle the thorny issue of the divorce. Forcing people to remain in legal limbo is not acceptable. It is bad enough to have your marriage semi-acknowledged when YOU acknowledge it. Being “sort of married” when you aren't with your spouse any longer is a real problem.
We need real solutions. Clearly, marriage equality is the ultimate solution which allows people to make their marital decisions without legal maneuvers and political power plays. But is there something else that can be done? A Rhode Island court denied a petition for divorce even without the DOMA law Pennsylvania has in place. A New York court, however, granted a divorce because children were involved. This can be a very sticky wicket that requires thoughtful solutions as the full impact of second-class citizenship continues to fall out throughout the nation.
I say the solution in the short term is for us to work to elect allies who will show leadership on LGBTQ issues and tackle this sure to be growing legal problem for Pennsylvania families.
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