Before July 24, 2011, when same-sex marriage became legal in New York, same-sex couples were not legally recognized as legitimately married in the eyes of the law. Benefits of marriage such as social security benefits, inheritance benefits, and health insurance benefits were denied them.
Although there have been countless changes that benefit LGBT couples both in law and in the social sphere, the law is still evolving in this area and there are frequent challenges to the laws that exist. There are still obstacles that LGBT couples face and they require the same legal representation as opposite-sex married couples. The issues in marriage and divorce, child custody, and legal agreements fall under the umbrella of Family Law.
From prenuptial agreements to adoption or divorce, an LGBT family law lawyer is knowledgeable in the unique challenges and issues in the LGBT community. It may be hard to keep up with LGBT Rights and the legal challenges to them. Having a lawyer on your side who understands your rights and will fight for them can give you a sense of peace and safety that can often seem elusive.
In the landmark case of Griswold v. Connecticut¹ in 1965, the Supreme Court officially acknowledged that marriage relationships were intimate to the degree of being sacred, and they are a way of life and not social projects. At the time, marriage was defined only as between two partners of opposite sex. Same-sex couples were not recognized to be a part of unions described by the Court as sacred.
In 2017, a Gallup Poll revealed that there were 1.1 million LGBT people married to someone of the same-sex or 547,000 married same-sex couples. 1.2 million LGBT people in the U.S. are in a same-sex relationship but unmarried.
While countries like Nigeria were outlawing same-sex marriage in 2011, the United States was litigating the rights of same-sex persons to legally marry, however, there were still discriminations on the individual as well as state levels.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individual states cannot ban same-sex marriage. They are required to issue marriage licenses to any same-sex couples who apply. The 2015 deciding case of Obergefell v. Hodges², determined that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marriage per the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Health providers and insurance companies are no longer able to discriminate by turning someone away for being LGBT or denying anyone coverage for a pre-existing condition. Same-sex domestic partners can also receive long-term care insurance and are eligible for federal benefits under their same-sex federal employee partners.
LGBT couples have rights in the workplace, the healthcare environment, government institutions and they have rights under the law to adopt, enter pre and postnuptial agreements, win custody of children and receive all the same benefits as opposite-sex couples.
LGBT same-sex marriages can come with some specific unique elements, however, as far as the law is concerned they face the same challenges all marriages do and so the issues a lawyer can assist with include:
It is always wise to work with an LGBT family law lawyer who can not only advise you on legal issues that affect the LGBT community, and partnerships in general, but defend your rights if you ever face an injustice that is against the law.
The law has come quite a long way in protecting the rights of all people. There will always be hurdles here and there to overcome whether someone is a member of the LGBT community or not, however, an LGBT family law lawyer understands the unique challenges to the community and is able to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected and upheld.
¹GRISWOLD ET AL. v. CONNECTICUT No. 496 381 U.S. 479; 85 S. Ct. 1678; 14 L. Ed. 2d 510; 1965 U.S. LEXIS 2282 , (1965), https://web.stanford.edu/~mrosenfe/Griswold_v_CT_US_1965.pdf (last visited Sep 9, 2017).
²OBERGEFELL ET AL. v. HODGES, DIRECTOR, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL. CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT No. 14–556. , (2015), https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf (last visited Jul 2, 2015).
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