I recently spent a week lecturing and meeting with lawyers and financial planners in Boston, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., and it is evident that the evolving legal protections for same-sex couples are especially complicated in these multi-state regions. In Massachusetts, the key issue is whether or not all out-of-state partnerships and civil unions will be fully recognized, as equivalent to legally-recognized marriages. In New York, out-of-state marriages are being recognized in most instances, though in some arenas (probate and tax regulation, most notably) there is no clear legal guidance, and it is remains unclear if civil unions or domestic partnerships will be recognized as marriage-equivalents.
An even more dynamic landscape is emerging in the multi-state region of Maryland, D.C., Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey. The District of Columbia grants domestic partnership status and recognizes out-of-state marriages for “state-law” purposes, but cannot offer federal recognition at this time — and may or may not authorize marriages to take place there. Not surprisingly, there are couples who work in D.C., live in Virginia, and own property in Maryland — and it is going to take many years for the precise legal rules to be developed. Maryland’s activists are hoping that their Attorney General will issue a ruling extending recognition to out-of-state marriages and partnerships, but it remains uncertain when, or even if this will happen.
Couples in these regions need to be especially careful in making decisions about marrying or registering, and when making decisions about parentage, property acquisition, and financial obligations — and they need to make a special effort to seek out legal and tax professionals who have a solid understanding of these legal complexities!