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PA Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships

Although same-sex marriages and divorces can now be granted anywhere in the country, there are a few unanswered questions in Pennsylvania regarding how legal relationships between same-sex couples ' that are not marriages ' should be treated.


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Pennsylvania began issuing same-sex marriage licenses a year before the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (see the article in this issueby Frank Gulino) as a result of the Pennsylvania U.S. District Court case Whitewood v. Wolf, 992 F. Supp. 2d 410, 420 (M.D. Pa. 2014). Prior to Whitewood‘ same-sex couples in Pennsylvania could not obtain a marriage license, and same-sex marriages that occurred in another state were not recognized in Pennsylvania. Consequently, courts in Pennsylvania generally would not dissolve legally established same-sex marriages that occurred in other states. This caused serious problems for same-sex couples who entered into a marriage in another state and could not dissolve their relationship in Pennsylvania. Ordinarily, the same-sex couple could not go back to the state in which they were married to get a divorce because, in order to obtain a divorce, most states require a person to be a resident of that state for a substantial amount of time. Thus, same-sex couples in Pennsylvania were left with very limited options to dissolve their relationship legally.

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