The recent trend of e-marriage is changing the way the LGBT community is thinking about marriage.
Frustrated by both state and federal restrictions such as the Defense Against Marriage Act, LGBT couples are turning to e-marriage almost out of desperation — and protest — without considering its validity or the consequences that may follow if the marriage fails.
E-marriage is a means to have a traditional, legal ceremony in a state that does not otherwise recognize same-sex marriage. Couples who reside in a state where gay marriage is banned or not legally recognized can obtain a marriage license from a state anywhere in the United States. It is becoming a way for LGBT couples to legally marry under a different state’s laws and jurisdiction. However, it is still necessary to physically travel to the state recognizing the marriage to obtain the license.
The “e” in e-marriage refers to an electronic ceremony in which an officiant in a different state marries a couple through Skype or a similar program. This was the case for a Dallas couple married in November via Skype from their home state of Texas even though the state bans same-sex marriage.
According to Professor Mae Kuykendall, director of the E-Marriage Project at Michigan State University Law School, it won’t make gay marriage legal in states where it is not. It has many cost benefits, saving couples hundreds of dollars in travel costs for themselves and family members, and allows people to marry somewhere special or meaningful within their home state.
That said, it has many drawbacks.
The validity of the virtual ceremony could be challenged in courts of states that do not recognize gay marriage. However, the larger issue is that if the marriage fails, e-marriage does not allow favorable options regarding divorce, short of moving to the state in which the couple was married. This is also the case for any LGBT couple who marries in a state other than their state of residency.
If your state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, it will also not recognize same-sex divorce — and therein lies the major issue with out-of-state and e-marriages. For example, at least one person in a couple who has a Massachusetts marriage certificate, but lives in Arkansas, would have to move to Massachusetts for a period of 12 months to declare residency and then file for divorce. This quandary is due to DOMA, which permits states to decide whether to give Full Faith and Credit to another state’s marriage. This issue in particular will make the potential repeal of DOMA very interesting.
As it stands, the quandary doesn’t hold true in states that recognize out-of-state gay marriage such as Maryland, California and New York.
Though a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll found that 51 percent of those surveyed thought same-sex marriages should be valid — the first time a majority supported marriage equality in this poll — gay marriage is not valid in most states.
E-marriage has recently emerged as another way for LGBT couples to get married but, unfortunately, does not solve the problem of marriage inequality. With minimal legal benefits and other complications, deciding to e-marry could have serious financial and emotional effects on the parties involved.
Before getting e-married, please educate yourself thoroughly in order to decide whether it is the best option for you and you partner.
Angela D. Giampolo, principal of Giampolo Law Group, maintains offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and specializes in LGBT law, business law, real-estate law and civil rights. Her website is www.giampololaw.com
and she maintains two blogs, www.phillygayawyer.com
and www.lifeinhouse.com. Send Angela your legal questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.