Gay Marriage, what’s protected, what’s not?

Last month, New York took the plunge and legalized same sex marriages. At the stroke of midnight on Sunday, July 24, same sex couples were allowed to make their relationships “official” as weddings were held in city offices and at Niagara Falls. While government offices are not usually open on Sundays, this day was an exception, and by the end of it hundreds of couples had said their vows.

The legalization of gay marriage in New York, while only technically affecting those in the state, really has nationwide impact for those in same sex couplings. The legalization of same sex marriage in New York doubled the number of Americans who live in a state where gay and lesbian couples can wed. Gay-rights advocates are setting their sights on Maryland to be the next state to legalize same sex marriage, but they have a long way to go there and around the rest of the country.

Currently, in the majority of states, same-sex partnerships are generally overlooked by the law. Only six states, now including New York, have legalized gay marriage, and only a handful more include any form of freedom of religion and fair marriage acts, which allow those involved in a same-sex civil union to receive rights similar to those of married couples. Those in other states have to be aware of their rights when it comes to day to day worries – anything from child custody, support and visitation, second-parent adoptions, school related issues, estate planning, wills, powers of attorney, and partnership agreements. In all cases, it is in the couple’s best interest to speak to a lawyer in order to figure out where they stand on these issues.

One area where we might see rapid growth is in consumer issues.  (Read my lips-it’s the economy, stupid!)  Insurance company Esurance is an early adopter to the civil union changes when considering car insurance. Already, its company offers savings to couples in California, Oregon, and Washington, and with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act that went into effect in June 2011, it offered couples in that state the opportunity to sign up for the “married” car insurance rate instead of just the “single” one if they are in a civil union, giving them an average of 10% savings on their annual insurance bills.

If Esurance can do it, why not other companies? It will be interesting to see in the future what problems are alleviated for same sex couples when considering the issues they have faced with not only insurance but also with other legal battles.
The Law Office of Debra G. Simms offers consultations to same-sex couples for a variety of issues, including property agreements, custody, wills, powers of attorney and medical directives.  We now also offer Small Business Planning for Domestic Partners.
Call for a consultation to know your rights.
Debra G. Simms
Altamonte Springs, FL
Toll free:-1-877-4667
Debra G. Simms

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