Changing Legal Landscape Affecting Same Sex Couples in Pennsylvania
At the end of 2016, the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued two opinions which arose out of the extension of full recognition of same sex marriage in Pennsylvania and in the United States.
The first case is In re Adoption of R.A.B., Jr.
Nino Esposito and Ronald Bosse had been together as a couple for four decades when they sought to amend their estate plans in 2012. Discovering that they lacked the ability to avoid substantial tax consequences by conveying property to each other through their estates, the couple, elected, as other same-sex couples had, to have one party adopt the other. Mr. Esposito, then in his 70s adopted Mr. Bosse, then in his 60s.
Flash forward to 2015 when the couple’s fundamental legal right to marry was established, they were unable to do so, since their adoption prevented it. Mr. Esposito sought to nullify the adoption, and the Common Pleas Court Judge did not have the authority under the Adoption Act to do so. Mr. Esposito appealed, and on December 21, 2016, the Superior Court granted the couple the ability to dissolve the adoption and paved their way to marry.
The second case is Neyman v. Buckley.
The parties in this case were joined by civil union in Vermont in 2002, over a decade before Pennsylvania, indeed the nation, would recognize a same sex couple’s right to wed. The couple moved to Pennsylvania and attempted to dissolve their civil union under the Pennsylvania Divorce Code in 2014. A Philadelphia County court dismissed the Divorce case stating that it did not have the authority to dissolve the Vermont civil union, only parties who were “married.”
On December 28, 2015, the Superior Court analyzed the evolution of the law regarding same-sex marriage and unions in the country, concluding that the “tectonic shift” in the law was “significant.” The Court therefore determined that civil unions afford the same rights, duties, and responsibilities on parties as a marriage, and as such, the parties should be afforded the same protections in the courthouse as parties who are married.
As novel issues facing same-sex couples continue to arise, the attorneys at Gentile, Horoho & Avalli, P.C. will continue to inform our clients of the changing legal landscape.