Would a Domestic Partnership Interfere with a Civil Marriage?

So I continue to wait for someone to remedy the situation with the City of Pittsburgh, I had an interesting thought. FTR, we are now up to three members of Council, a staffer with the Mayor’s office, the ACLU and the Women’s Law Project all trying to find out what happened to the affidavits. Your tax dollars at work my friends.

I was reading a news article about a member of the registry who is now in a relationship with someone new. They were being interviewed about potentially getting married. I randomnly wondered if her affidavit was lost and then I thought another minute – I wonder if she officially terminated the Domestic Partnership?

Now, it’s none of my business and I certainly wish everyone involved well – it is just an example that made me start thinking.

If we assume the affidavits are lost and participants have to complete a new form with a backdate (this is what the ACLU is advising basically), what if you turned up to cancel your partnership (and perhaps enroll a new one) and you can’t get your former partner to sign the backdated letter? What if they moved? What if they want to be a jerk? What if they already reenrolled and don’t want to be called out on it?

Now for a civil divorce, you’d unfortunately have to wait it out until the judge is willing to issue a decree, signature or not right? But at least there’s a process.

So, say you are unable to cancel your partnership and you decide to go to New York to marry someone else. Is the legal standing of a municipal domestic partnership sufficient grounds to prevent you from getting a marriage license? Or would it make you a bigamist? What if you came back to Pgh with a civil partner AND a spouse who are two different people. Whoa.

Image: Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Image: Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

My point is that this is unchartered territory. Who would decide? If you can’t terminate a domestic partnership because the City of Pittsburgh lost the paperwork, can you sue the City to force them to end the partnership? What if your domestic partner was still on your employer paperwork and things didn’t go smoothly with him cooperating with that change?

It gets more interesting – if Rich Fitzgerald agrees to begin offering marriage licenses in Allegheny County, I would assume that residents of the City who have a valid domestic partner registry would not be able to marry someone else. Even symbolically. The County has a reciprocity agreement of some type with the City with regard to domestic partner benefits.

Do we really want to get into a scenario where the current or future Mayor Pittsburgh is officiating at a marriage that is invalidated by his own City code?

It is all symbolic, you say. I disagree. The Mayor of Pittsburgh defying an unjust state law is one thing. The Chief Executive of Allegheny County defying a perfectly valid and just City ordinance is quite another. (If I were a County employee accessing domestic partner benefit and Fitz authorized marriage, I’d get married and then sue him for marital recognition in terms of benefit fairness – namely a tax offset for the extra federal taxes on health insurance. But that’s just me.)

The first step is for someone to clarify if the original affidavits are still around.  If not,the next step would be to nofity the 50 some people and tell them how to correct the situation (either reapply or terminate.)  Then let Allegheny County marry away.


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