What Are the Legal Costs To Defend Domestic Partnerships and Marriage Equality in Pennsylvania?

This past weekend was my third wedding anniversary. It was a bit harder than I thought to think about marriage joy. But we had a plan.

I’ve gifted my wife with the “traditional”gift each year that we could share, so I decided to gift myself something leather this year. In this leather case, it was a cute $30 compass with the pre-engraving “So You Can Always Find Your Way Home Again.” Seems quite apropos for my situation.

“So you can always find your way home.”

We are wrapping up the mediation for the co-habitation agreement. The plan is for me to return to my residence on March 2. That’s six months since I was removed. Since early December, I’ve been visiting my cats 2x week. As I make my way through my home of 18+ years, I am gradually feeling more grounded and connected. More “at home” there while also “like home” here with my friends.

But I had a sobering conversation with my lawyer today, There has been no court ruling in Pennsylvania on all the issues associated with a domestic partnership evolving into marriage, sort of straddling marriage equality court decisions. She warned me that it could take three years to litigate because it is all new territory – what does a domestic partnership mean in real terms compared to a marriage? 2/3? 3/4? Complicated questions.

Also remember that Pennsylvania does not have statewide nondiscrimination protections so in 70% of the Commonwealth, registering for a marriage license – a public document – is a choice to be living out as an LGBTQ person, but without protections. Once you apply for your marriage license, you could be fired.

Domestic partnerships are very much still necessary. As HR or personnel matters, they are subject to stricter privacy. These types of cases known as “impact litigation” because they can affect a large number of people beyond the plaintiff/defendant.

There have certainly been other “gay divorces” in PA, but they have often been settled privately so there’s no precedent. It is daunting to think of three years or longer of litigation to protect my rights. And yours if you are an LGBTQ person. Also factor in my disability status which has marital consequences.

Complicated. I hope you will continue to stand with me.

You know who will be quick to stand against me – anyone who wants to erode LGBTQ rights, including marriage equality and domestic partnerships. Trumpies. Christian Nationalists. Extremists. This could go a lot of ways.

I can’t think too far ahead without getting anxious. So I’m on day to day mode right now. I’m focused on getting myself physically home.

I need to find a dresser/nightstand, clean the spaces. I only have my new bed to move along with the clothing I have here. But I cannot afford not to stay one step ahead of anyone who would strip me of any of my rights.

If you can make a little extra donation, that would be a big help. My legal bills are going to mount and I’m running out of ideas on how to pay them. It is, sadly, very American that the right to counsel is always attached to a price tag. And how quickly one can spend $12,500 on lawyers in six months.

Yep, I’m in touch with the national LGBTQ and civil rights orgs. I was already in touch with them about the defamation case. But the ACLU is tracking 398 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S. and that’s only on the state level, not municipal or school district. Defending marriage equality in Pennsylvania seems critical, but resources are stretched. It will help to show that over 200 people have invested in this case.

On a related note, my heart sunk today when I received a letter from one of the law firms involved in the defamation case. Turns out it was a notice the one lawyer would be leaving the case, his colleagues are still representing. I do not know how I would handle if that case became active.

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