General Question

eadinad's avatar

How can you "recreate" marriage in a state where marriage is not legal for you?

Asked by eadinad (1278points) May 27th, 2010

My partner and I (both females) are interested in getting married but it is not legal in our state (Georgia.) Aside from having a wedding, how can we recreate the legal benefits of marriage without actually being married? I’m looking for specific information on which forms we could fill out, and where to get them, in order to create typical “married” rights and privileges. Hospital visitation, home/property ownership, etc. I’d also be interested in a good summary of the legal benefits of heterosexual marriage as I’m not even sure what all that entails.


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21 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Here is a list of the legal benefits of marriage.

Here is information about cohabitation agreements (this applies to Illinois, but you could look into it for your state).

syz's avatar

This has a lot of helpful information and this seems to be the ultimate reference resource.

CMaz's avatar

Take one or the others last name. You can legally change your name. This establishing a family connection.
Have joint ownership of everything and make a living will.

JLeslie's avatar

You will need a lawyer. Probably the most important that I can think of is getting your wills written as you would want including a living will.

Get rights of survivorship on property (many states have tennants in common and if you own property together with that type of legal relationship on the property then when one of you dies it would mean half the house goes to the legal heir according to the state, not to the other owner).

Probably would want to consider adding each others names to some bank accounts, you might be able to avoid taxation if one of you dies if you both own the bank account equally.

About the names, maybe make up your own name that represents the relationship if you want to both have the same name. Although, many heterosexual couples don’t change their names, but it is much easier if you plan on having children to all have the same name.

JLeslie's avatar

I wonder if you can just sign a simple document stating you both agree for marriage laws of your state to apply to your relationship, and leave it at that? Each state is different, and I always say that marriage is the one contract we sign without reading. Like some states divide everything 50/50 in a divorce, some don’t. Some states give a spouse a significant right to their primary home, even if their name is not on the deed, some don’t.

Primobabe's avatar

Purchase all substantial assets—real estate, automobiles, life insurance policies—as joint tenants. Don’t be tenants in common, but joint tenants with full rights of survivorship.

For all other property, have an attorney create revocable grantor trusts.

For life insurance policies, IRA’s, and employer retirement arrangements, be sure that your partner is the named beneficiary. “Named beneficiary” is a legal term that differs from “beneficiary,” and the status is advantageous.

These steps should keep your estates out of probate and ensure that the surviving partner will benefit. Of course, such assurances can’t compare to spousal rights, but they’re at least something.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

I would add to @JLeslie‘s excellent answer that you should each make the other your health care proxy, in addition to the living will. A living will gives a sense of your treatment preferences, but the health care proxy should* ensure that the doctors specifically consult your partner with respect to your treatment if you cannot speak for yourself.

*I say “should” because of the horrible Langbehn/Pond case in Florida where a hospital directly ignored the health care proxy and did not consult Ms. Langbehn at all about Ms. Pond’s treatment. The hospital also didn’t let Ms. Langbehn see Ms. Pond, even when she was dying. President Obama signed a directive ordering hospitals to respect living wills, but we’ll see how well it works.

Primobabe's avatar

There are literally hundreds of spousal rights provided by various state and federal laws. We think of the obvious examples—hospital visits, funeral/burial choices, health insurance coverage, Social Security benefits—but there are many rights that most of us would never even consider. To mention just a few—dower and curtesy rights, transfer of an easement, rights to water access and usage.

In other words, it isn’t possible to recreate all the legal benefits of marriage.

Each of us is entitled to equal protection under the law, but society isn’t on board yet. I truly believe that the situation will change over time. Forty or fifty years ago, who would have believed that the U.S. would someday elect an African American president or that any states would perform and/or recognize same-sex marriages?

tinyfaery's avatar

Primobabe is right. You need an attorney who specializes in gay rights. Fact is, you might be all set in your own state, but if you travel and there is some sort of emergency you and your partner could be denied those same rights.

There is no equivalent of hetero marriage for gay couples in this country. Not even civil unions or domestic partnership benefits give gay couples the same rights as marriage.

Don’t try to do this yourself. Get an attorney, especially if one or both of your families is adverse to your relationship.

Good luck. Or you can move.

eadinad's avatar

@tinyfaery, Luckily both of our families seem to be supportive of our relationship, but you never know. I am most concerned with government or social interference. Hiring a lawyer is probably our best bet, to get things as iron clad as possible.

Primobabe's avatar

@tinyfaery Or you can move

Move to Massachusetts. Have a gorgeous wedding on Martha’s Vineyard. Start being Red Sox and Celtics fans. Live happily ever after.

I’m half joking, half serious. On the one hand, it’s good to know that there are at least a few states that fully recognize and enforce your rights. On the other hand, it’s a disgrace that you’d need to relocate to one of those states, and that you’d lose your rights if you were to move away. Come to think of it, you could run into problems even if you go on vacation; if one of you were injured and hospitalized elsewhere, the other partner probably wouldn’t have visitation rights or any say in her wife’s medical treatment.

eadinad's avatar

@Primobabe, like @tinyfaery said, even gay marriage in Massacusetts does not give us all the “normal” rights, because it would not be federally recognized.

tinyfaery's avatar

My partner and I have so much planning to do when we travel. We have an agreement that we will not travel to any state that has no protections for us. No way will we give them my hard earned money.

We are simply second class citizens in our own country.

Primobabe's avatar

@eadinad Absolutely correct, which is why I emphasize state law. None of the benefits of marriage under federal law will apply—Social Security survivor benefits, estate and gift tax relief for property given or left to a same-sex spouse, family leave if a same-sex spouse becomes ill, etc.

Otto_King's avatar

Go to Vegas! :) I’m sorry I don’t know, but I wish the best!

eadinad's avatar

@tinyfaery, doesn’t that mean you can only go to about eight states in the US? Or am I misunderstanding?

MissAnthrope's avatar

Even if you go to a lawyer and do all these things, be forewarned that none of it is air tight. There have been instances where couples tried to cover all bases legally and yet the families were able to contest successfully. I find it really sad, but I am hopeful that things will begin to turn around in the next 10 years; I find the current younger generation to be far more open and accepting of gays (in general) and eventually they will reach voting age.

JLeslie's avatar

@tinyfaery So like a boycott of sorts. Interesting. But, don’t you live in California? Isn’t it illegal there now? Just a suggestion, but maybe only vacation in places that are pro gay rights. There are cities all over America that are very liberal, even if they are in f**ked up states. Take NYC or southeast FL for that matter. I support your intention, really I do, but I think you might be cutting off your nose to spite your face. Still, I respect your integrity and committment to the cause.

tinyfaery's avatar

@JLeslie I have recently considered leaving CA, even though L.A. is my home and I will always love my state. We don’t have the results of the challenge to Prop.8 yet. Cross your fingers. I also see your point about gay friendly cities. I’ll think about it. (CA does have domestic partnerships.)

@eadinad Many states have anti-discrimination laws even if they do not allow any sort of gay partnerships.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Just be sisters to anyone who asks. As far as I know, no one ever asks for proof of that family relationship (at least for hospital visitations, living together and other non-financial matters). For rights of survivorship, use a will or living trust.

For most of last year my brother had been living with me here in Connecticut. I’ve had to resist the urge to tell people at times (because I think there’s some wondering among a few of my neighbors, none of whom really knows me), “He really is just my brother.” But I don’t care enough to disabuse anyone who thinks otherwise.

tinyfaery's avatar

We shouldn’t have to hide who we are to receive equal treatment. If my wife were really hurt, no way could I pretend she was my sister. She would need me and I would not deny her my love and affection.

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